Fire's intense heat damages nearby buildings

The fire that ripped through an apartment complex in downtown Los Angeles early Monday was so big and so hot that it caused a ring of collateral damage.

Heat blew out more than 300 windows in one building and cracked 169 in another, and smoke triggered sprinkler systems that caused water damage. Fallen embers blanketed downtown in ash.


The Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith building took the brunt of the damage.

Heat shattered all but a few of the 15-floor building's windows, exposing mangled white plastic shades. Computers melted. So did desks, filing cabinets and chairs. Shards of glass blanketed a parking structure below.

Timothy Graves, managing partner of Lewis Brisbois' Los Angeles office, said more than 500 employees work in the firm's headquarters. He said the firm leases seven floors from the city of Los Angeles, which houses several city departments on the remaining floors.

For many of Lewis Brisbois' employees, news that their building had been damaged came in the form of an automated phone call early Monday. Sherry Young, a paralegal, still made a trip to the building. When she saw that windows on her floor were missing, she immediately thought about her boss' 4-foot-tall painting of koi.

"It would be so heartbreaking to lose that," she said.

More than 300 of the building's windows were blown out by the heat, Graves said, and the building's sprinkler system went off, causing substantial water damage.

Crews spent Monday covering equipment with plastic and removing water. The firm plans to use its offices in San Bernardino and Costa Mesa to temporarily house the accounting, human resources and mail departments, Graves said.

Sprinklers also doused the space used by the city's Department of Aging, where about 2,000 Christmas gift bags were soaked with water and destroyed, department general manager Laura Trejo said.

Staff members had planned to begin passing out the presents this week to senior citizens, she said, adding: "It's enough to break your heart."

Times staff writers Marisa Gerber, Soumya Karlamangla, Brittny Mejia and Joseph Serna contributed to this report.