Man Dies After Fire Breaks Out at Homeless Encampment in West Hollywood

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A three-alarm blaze broke out at a homeless encampment in West Hollywood on May 20, 2015. (Credit: OnScene)

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Homicide detectives were investigating a man's death after a three-alarm blaze fueled by pack-rat conditions broke out at an apparent homeless encampment in West Hollywood Thursday, officials said.

A three-alarm blaze broke out at a homeless encampment in West Hollywood on May 20, 2015. (Credit: OnScene)
A three-alarm blaze broke out at a homeless encampment in West Hollywood on May 20, 2015. (Credit: OnScene)

Firefighters responded to a blaze in the 9000 block of Santa Monica Boulevard (map) shortly before midnight Wednesday, said Inspector Chris Reade with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The fire broke out at a two-story commercial building that had been scheduled for demolition and turned into an apparent homeless encampment, officials said.

A man was found in full cardiac arrest inside the building and transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Fire Department's Anthony Whittle said.

The man later died, fire officials confirmed.

Pack-rat conditions fueled the fire, Reade said.

“It took our firefighters a while to put out this fire because there was fire hidden behind the walls, behind mattresses, behind couches, behind tarps," he said.

More than 60 firefighters worked over an hour to extinguish the blaze.

“Because of those conditions, the flames were coming actually through roof. Because that fire was so hot, the smoke was so thick, firefighters had a hard time seeing even through that smoke," Reade said. "They had to stay really low because the ceiling where they were trying to walk was so hot that it forces you down to your knees and you can only really crawl."

Officials did not know how many people were inside the encampment when the blaze broke out, or if the man who died lived there.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, and it was unclear if the building owner would face charges.

Homicide and arson detectives with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department were investigating the deadly incident.

KTLA's Alberto Mendez contributed to this report.

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