Christian Lara was on his way home from work early Thursday when he got a call from his apartment manager saying the Echo Park building was on fire. He said he immediately thought of his two roommates -- his cousin and his brother.
Lara, 33, said later Thursday that when he arrived in the 1000 block of North Bonnie Brae Street, he found his cousin on the ground, injured after jumping from a window in their second-floor apartment.
He said he yelled for his brother, who he identified as 23-year-old Diego Alberto, but got no response.
"The fire by then had consumed most of the building," Lara said, adding that Los Angeles Fire Department officials later told him his brother was still inside.
"I think my brother died in the fire," he said.
Authorities said the blaze began around 12:15 a.m. and resulted in two fatalities, including an elderly woman and a man in his 20s. At least four people were injured, including a firefighter, officials said.
More than two dozen others from the building, and possibly other buildings nearby, were evacuated to a Holiday Inn, authorities said.
Jamie Moore of the L.A. Fire Department said that though the cause of the blaze remains under investigation, officials are treating the fire as "suspicious" because it spread very quickly. There was also fire on two separate floors of the building, he said.
Lara said Alberto had just celebrated his 23rd birthday on Monday and that the three roommates had immigrated from the Mexican state of Queretaro more than a decade ago.