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Fire at abandoned South L.A. church being investigated as possible arson

Fire at abandoned South L.A. church being investigated as possible arson
Los Angeles city firefighters mop-up after a greater-alarm fire at an abandoned church building in the South Los Angeles Monday morning. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A massive fire at an abandoned church building in the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Vermont Knolls is being investigated as a possible arson, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Investigators are working to determine the cause of the fire at the multistory building at 8401 S. Hoover Street, said LAFD Battalion Chief Dale Drummond. The fire was reported shortly after 5 a.m. Monday and was knocked down at 6:56 a.m., with 125 firefighters battling the flames.

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The building formerly housed the Greater Bethany Church, "but it's been vacant for a while," Drummond said. The building was occupied by homeless people who left before firefighters arrived, the LAFD said in a statement.

Flames shot through the top of the building, causing a partial roof collapse and generating heavy smoke, Drummond said. The former church was a split-level building, with two stories, he said. The fire mostly burned in classrooms and offices, the department said.

The blaze took some time to extinguish because firefighters had to work from the outside after the roof collapse, he said.

There was significant damage to the building, and the estimated dollar loss is still being determined, the Fire Department said in a statement. The flames were confined to the former church and did not spread to nearby buidlings.

There were no injuries, Drummond said.

Firefighters will remain on scene for most of the day, watching for hot spots, he said.

Hoover Street will stay closed from roughly 83rd Street to Manchester Avenue for at least several hours, Drummond said.

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