Creating 'human ladder,' motel residents flee Christmas fire

Six injured, including two critically, in motel fire on Christmas night in Westlake

Six people were injured -- two critically -- after fire swept through a three-story residential motel in Westlake on Christmas evening, fire officials said.

Five of the injured, between the ages of 28 and 73, were taken to hospitals, said Erik Scott, spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department. Two victims suffered critical injuries from burns and smoke inhalation.

The chaotic scene at the JJ Park Motel Residence at 3rd and Bonnie Brae streets near MacArthur Park forced residents to create their own means of escape.

They tied bedsheets together to climb out of their smoke-filled apartments. Others used sheer strength to hold residents up on their shoulders and create a "human ladder" to help people escape, fire officials said.

Firefighters credited a smoke alarm system for quickly alerting residents to the fire and allowing them to escape.

Senior Arson Investigator David Liske believes the fire began about 6 p.m. in a second-floor unit near a kitchen stove.

"While the cause of the fire appears to be accidental, the investigation will continue," he said in a statement.

Fire, smoke and water damaged 25 units of the 135-apartment building.

About 100 firefighters fought the blaze and rescued people in wheelchairs. Finally, after ventilating the roof and running hose lines through winding stairwells, they extinguished the blaze in 21 minutes.

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