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West L.A. High-Rise Fire

Five people, including a child, and three firefighters were treated for injuries after a fire broke out at a 25-story apartment building on the westside of Los Angeles midday Friday.

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The cause of an October high-rise apartment fire in the Brentwood area that injured eight people, including three firefighters, was ruled undetermined, fire officials announced Wednesday.

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At least one unit in a 25-story building in West LA was on fire Oct. 18, 2013.

The fire’s cause was listed as “undetermined, most probably discarded smoking material,” according to a Los Angeles Fire Department blog post.

The fire broke out on the 11th floor of the 240-unit Barrington Plaza apartments on Wilshire Boulevard just before noon on Oct. 18, 2013.

Five residents were transported to hospitals for smoke exposure, according to the Fire Department’s Brian Humphrey. A child who was among the five victims was in critical condition, Humphrey said.

Three firefighters were hospitalized with minor burns and later released, officials said.

The 25-story building, one of three in the Barrington Plaza complex, did not have fire sprinklers, which were not required when the structure was built in 1961, according to the Fire Department.

Two friends who barely knew their neighbors are being honored for their rescue of a toddler and her grandfather during a dramatic high-rise fire on the westside of Los Angeles last week.

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Pamela Day and Sasha Poparic are credited with saving the lives of a 2-year-old girl and her grandfather during a fire at a westside apartment building last week. (Credit: KTLA)

Sasha Poparic and Pamela Day were among the residents of the 386-unit Barrington Plaza apartments who saw their 25-story building on fire on Oct. 18.

Dark smoke and flames poured from the windows of an 11th-floor unit, and more than 200 firefighters responded to a chaotic, dangerous scene in the Brentwood area.

Three firefighters and five residents of the building were injured by the fire. Two of the seriously hurt residents were encountered by Poparic and Day.

Inside the building, neither of the neighbors heard fire alarms, and by the time they tried to escape, smoke clogged the stairwells.

“The problem was we couldn’t escape. We tried,” said Day, whose apartment is on the 23rd floor. “We were trapped.”

Poparic received a text message from a neighbor whom he had met just once in the elevator. The man asked Poparic to check on his young daughter and the girl’s grandfather, saying no one had come to assist the pair.

Poparic ventured into the stairwell, but the smoke was so heavy, he had to cover his face with a  towel. He didn’t see the girl and her grandfather. Returning to his apartment, he texted the neighbor that the two could not be found.

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The little girl and her grandfather were treated on the building’s roof. Day and Poparic can be seen at right. (Credit: KTLA)

Meanwhile, Poparic and Day were yelling at each other from their neighboring balconies, trying to figure out how to escape the fire.

The father, Ivo Gerscovich, who was on the ground outside the apartment building, begged Poparic via text message to try again.

He did. In a stairwell, he found the two, unconscious. The grandfather was cradling his 2-year-old granddaughter in his arm.

“I saw a scene out of war zone,” Poparic said.

The two appeared dead, Day said.

“I’m not a firefighter, I’m not a paramedic. I’ve never been in this situation,” Poparic recalled in an on-set appearance with Day on the KTLA 5 Morning News Wednesday.

“Instead of panicking, I said, what else is to be done? I just jumped on that little girl and I was giving her CPR for the first time in my life,” Poparic said. “Suddenly she opened her eyes and she started vomiting blood and black stuff out of her mouth.”

He took the child to Day’s apartment, and Day began screaming and throwing things off her 23rd-floor balcony in an effort to get firefighters’ attention.

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The Barrington Plaza apartment building was left seriously damaged by the Oct. 18 fire. (Credit: KTLA)

Eventually, the little girl and her grandfather were taken to the roof of the building, where firefighters treated them, appearing to perform CPR on the toddler. Both were soon transported to area hospitals, where the little girl was in critical condition.

On Wednesday, the girl was continuing a “very difficult recovery,” her parents, Eva and Ivo Gerscovich, said in a statement emailed to KTLA.

One of the few “bright spots” of the fire is that the family is now “forever intertwined” with Poparic and Day, the Gerscovichs wrote. Their child now has “a new Uncle Sasha and Auntie Pamela,” the parents said.

“Sasha and Pamela, who were upstairs neighbors we only recognized by sight a few short days ago, have entered our lives in the most heroic and selfless of ways,” the statement read. “The character, courage, sense of urgency and desire to not accept a seemingly hopeless and rapidly worsening situation, was clearly the key to my severely injured family’s survival. We truly don’t have the words to thank these heroes.”

Day has learned an important lesson from the fire, she said, one that’s crucial for all Angelenos isolated in their cars and homes.

“The real lesson here is: know your neighbors’ phone numbers,” Day said. “Reach out to them. Even if you don’t like them, have their phone numbers.”

Firefighters on Sunday continued to escort displaced residents into their apartments to gather personal belongings at a West L.A. high-rise where a fire erupted Friday on the 11th floor.

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Residents speak with LAFD officials outside the Barrington Plaza building in West Los Angeles.

Eight people were injured in the blaze, including a 2-year-old girl and her grandfather who remained hospitalized in critical condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, authorities said. A third victim has been released from the hospital.

Firefighters responded at 11:43 a.m. Friday to the 25-story Barrington Plaza building in the 11700 block of Wilshire Boulevard. Sky5 video showed intense flames and smoke emanating from the building in the 71 minutes before the fire was extinguished.

In an interview with KTLA, the four residents of the unit where the flames originated, who asked not to be identified, said they are college students who had moved into the apartment unit two months ago. Returning to their burned-out home for the first time Sunday, they retrieved items including a safe containing their passports.

One of the residents of the unit said he was the only person at home on Friday, when he awoke to the smell of smell of heavy smoke and ran out.

In an apartment adjacent to the one where the fire began, a fire official said a closed door prevented flames from spreading.

“If you look in the unit, there’s very little damage,” said Capt. Jamie Moore of the Los Angeles Fire Department. “This is a perfect example of how the door functioned to keep the fire from going inside the unit.”

Investigators said the blaze spread to a hallway because a door was left open in the apartment where the fire started.

“The whole place smells like an ash tray,” one man said.

“We slept there last night, and I just don’t like the idea of having that air,” a woman told KTLA. “You look at the little vents and they’re all black. I don’t know what kind of air is coming in our lungs. I just want to check it out and see that it’s O.K. We’re going to stay away for a little while.”

An investigation into what started the fire is ongoing, authorities said.

Fifty-one units between the 7th and 11th floors remained uninhabitable Sunday, mostly due to water damage.

Fire Investigators spent Saturday searching for clues as to what caused a blaze in a 25-story apartment building on the westside of Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The LAFD was leading the investigation with assistance from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, officials said.

Five people, including a 2-year-old girl, and three firefighters were injured.

As of Saturday afternoon, the toddler remained hospitalized in critical condition, sources told KTLA 5.

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At least one unit in a 25-story building in West LA was on fire Friday.

Heavy smoke and flames poured from the 11th floor of the building in the 11700 block of Wilshire Boulevard in the Brentwood area Friday at 11:43 a.m.

The three firefighters were treated for minor burns and later released, officials said.

Residents will not be allowed to return to floors seven through 11, until further notice, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety said Saturday. About 125 people remained displaced.

People living on the other floors were allowed to return to their units, the fire department said.

The fire was confined to a two-bedroom unit, but smoke filled the stairwells, making it difficult for residents to escape.

“Heat and smoke want to rise.  When there’s no other place for it to go; eventually it’s gonna go vertically,” Battalion Chief Corey Rose said.

There were many accounts of heroic actions during Friday’s fire at a high-rise apartment building in West Los Angeles, including firefighters who ran unflinchingly into the burning building, and tenants who overcame fear to help each other in a time of crisis.

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Tenant Pamela Day describes chaotic and terrifying scene inside burning apartment building.

“This is the most terrified I’ve ever been,” resident Pamela Day told KTLA. “I’ve never been in a life-threatening fire.”

Day was one of three people, including an elderly man and a young girl, who were evacuated to the roof of the building when the stairwells became impassable with smoke and soot.

“When I first encountered the man and the girl, it was so terrifying because you could not go down and you could not go up. The smoke had then filled all of the hallways. You just couldn’t escape.”

Overwhelmed by the heat and smoke, Day said she retreated back to her apartment on the 23rd floor.

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Pamela Day evacuated to roof along with injured child and man after fire at high-rise apartment.

When Day returned to the stairwell with a neighbor to find the girl and the older man, they were unconscious.

They dragged the pair into a hallway and while her neighbor performed CPR, Day went for help.

“I started screaming to get the firefighters attention,” Day said.

She even threw things off her balcony in an effort to get someone to come up.

When fire crews arrived, they carried the child and man to the roof and began treating them, Day said.

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Pamela Day follows the injured girl to an awaiting ambulance.

The two were then rushed to an ambulance, aerial video showed.

Chris Wolfe contributed to this report.

Five people, including a child, and three firefighters were treated for injuries after a fire broke out at a 25-story apartment building on the westside of Los Angeles midday Friday.

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One unit in a 25-story building in West LA burned Wednesday.

Heavy smoke and flames poured from the 11th floor of the building in the 11700 block of Wilshire Boulevard (map) in the Brentwood area, after the blaze was reported at 11:43 a.m.

Five residents were transported to hospitals for smoke exposure, and fire crews checked on others who reportedly failed to heed fire alarms, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Brian Humphrey.

A child who was among the five victims was in critical condition, Humphrey said.

Three firefighters were hospitalized with minor burns and later released, officials said.

Fire officials described a dangerous scenario.

“It wasn’t just a room that was on fire. It was complete darkness in a tunnel with charged smoke throughout that floor,” fire Capt. Jaime Moore told reporters.

The 386-unit building, the Barrington Plaza apartments, was built in 1961 and did not have fire sprinklers, Humphrey said.

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A child and a man were being treated on the building’s roof after suffering respiratory complaints.

The blaze was kept to a two-bedroom unit and knocked down in 71 minutes, with 214 firefighters responding, Humphrey said. At least four stories of the complex above the unit that had burned were scorched black on the exterior.

About 20 minutes after the fire was put out, three people, including a small child, were brought to the building’s roof and two appeared to be receiving medical treatment, aerial video showed.

Resident Pamela Day was among the three; she said she encountered the child and an older man in a stairwell but returned to her apartment when the fire was out, she told KTLA.

“This is the most terrified I’ve ever been,” Day said. “When I first encountered the man and the girl, it was so terrifying because you could not go down and you could not go up. The smoke had then filled all of the hallways.”

“The worst part was the stairwells; they were like a funnel where the smoke lingered,” Day said.

When she returned to the stairwell to find the girl and the older man, they were unconscious. A friend began helping them, and Day said she returned to her unit and began screaming and throwing things off her balcony to get the attention of firefighters.

The two were taken to the building’s roof and treated by firefighters, and then appeared to be rushed to an ambulance, aerial video showed.

Meanwhile, three firefighters were taken to Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital — two with leg burns and one with an ear burn — according to Humphrey.

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The building was built in 1961 and had no sprinklers, fire officials said.

Dr. Peter Grossman, medical director of the center, said the burns were small and minor but could have been significantly worse.

“Considering the severity of the fire and the danger involved, these firefighters are all quite lucky today,” Grossman said.

The overall patient tally could climb, Humphrey said.

The fire was on the edge of LA’s upscale Brentwood neighborhood, several blocks west of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ West Los Angeles Medical Center.

Wilshire Boulevard, jammed with emergency vehicles, was shut down, and alternate Santa Monica Boulevard was filled with heavy traffic.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

The Red Cross has set up an evacuation and family reception center at University High School at 11800 Texas Ave. (map).

Residents of 51 units, an estimated 125 people, were displaced by the fire, Humphrey said.

KTLA’s Chris Wolfe and Kareen Wynter contributed to this report.

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