Suspicious circumstances are being investigated after a man was found dead following a fire that broke out in a 10 foot by 10 foot shed in East Los Angeles on Friday, officials said.
Ground crews first responded to reports of a blaze in the 600 block of Fetterly Avenue around 9:30 a.m., according to supervisor Jeremy Stafford with the L.A. County Fire Department.
Smoke billowing from the area was first noticed by L.A. County sheriff's deputies, who called the fire department, according to a sheriff's press release.
Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy smoke and fire coming from behind a row of apartments. The fire department said the shed was being inhabited despite not meeting building code standards.
A bed, pots and pans were later found in the small space, but there was no sign of running water, electricity or appliances.
The victim was found with burns and there were signs he had suffered smoke inhalation, firefighters said, but the coroner had not yet arrived on scene to determine an official cause of death.
Officials did not identify the deceased victim, described only as a man in his 40s or 50s. Firefighters had previously said the man was older.
No one else was harmed, LAFD said, but the adjacent housing unit and some of the surrounding properties sustained mild to moderate damage.
Officials had not yet determined what could have sparked the flames, but Sheriff’s Lt. Rodney Moore said both the man's death and the cause of the fire were being investigated as suspicious.
Arson investigators also responded to the scene Friday afternoon to determine whether foul play could have been involved.
David Nicolas, who lives nearby, said he heard what sounded like an explosion. The loud noise caused his girlfriend to scream.
“It was a big fire with a lot of things spouting,” he said.
Neighbor Vicki Bleazard described how she saw the incident unfold.
"Initially I heard popping, and it was shaking the doors of the house," she said. "Then I heard the fire engines and they were really close, and looked out my kitchen window and there was smoke."
Another woman who lives nearby said the fire appeared to be moving quickly and she heard other people saying there were cries for help coming from the blaze.
"It was just so fast ... flames were coming this way. They asked us to move our cars," Diana Ramos said. "Everybody was saying they could hear a man screaming for help."
The blaze was extinguished in 14 minutes, firefighters said.