Los Angeles police were gathering donations on Christmas Eve for a Del Rey family whose apartment was destroyed by fire, along with all their possession and pet birds.
Alex Lopez said he and his wife were watching TV when he saw flames coming up outside the window on Monday evening. The couple had been preparing to celebrate Christmas with their three sons in their Westside home of 14 years.
Outside, the blaze at the Lopez home in the 4700 block of Centinela Avenue (map) was seen by LAPD Pacific Division patrol officers about 11:30 p.m. Monday.
A man was trying to put out the flames in the triplex with a garden hose, but the fire spread quickly and the hose proved useless, according to a Los Angeles Police Department news release.
The officers evacuated the home, getting the family out.
Within moments, a propane cylinder exploded on the patio, sending debris all over the place and intensifying the heat of the fire. Flames and smoke spread to the triplex's crawl space, which had been quickly evacuated, police said.
Some 40 firefighters arrived and knocked the blaze down in about 15 minutes, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Brian Humphrey. One person had a burn injury, he said late Monday, adding the the fire’s cause was not yet known.
The family lost all their possessions, along with five of their seven beloved birds.
“It’s an awful feeling if you see it happen to somebody else, but when it happens to you, it’s … overwhelming,” Lopez said. “You just can’t believe it.”
On Wednesday, Pacific Division officers were working with the community and local businesses to provide support for the family and raise funds.
“Our officers … it was so touching to them,” LAPD Capt. Nicole Alberca told Lopez. “They basically want to adopt you as our Pacific family.”
Household goods, clothing and toiletries can be dropped off for the the family at the Pacific Division front desk at 12312 Culver Blvd. (map)
For financial contributions, police said to contact Badge of Heart at 714-713-9063 or at the organization's website.
Despite their losses, Lopez said he, his wife and their sons — ages 15, 19 and 24 — have been very fortunate. He said the family was grateful for the support of the Los Angeles Police Department.
“The main thing is we’re all OK,” Lopez said. “We’re people of faith. We have faith in God, and that keeps us strong.”