Smoky Fire Routs 200 From Wilshire Building

Times Staff Writer

Nearly 200 office workers were routed Thursday by a smoky fire in a nine-story building on Wilshire Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles.

At least 40 suffered smoke inhalation while making their way down the darkened stairwells of the concrete-and-glass structure at 601-611 Wilshire.

All were given first aid by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics in a nearby parking lot. Ten required further treatment for smoke inhalation--seven women at California Hospital and three women at Queen of Angels Hospital. One man was treated at Queen of Angels for an ankle injury. All were released later.


The blaze caused an estimated $800,000 in damage to the building and its contents, according to department spokesman Jim Wells. He said that the alarm was sounded at 10:03 a.m. and the fire was extinguished about an hour later. The cause is under investigation.

Fire Capt. Bob Weigert said the blaze apparently started in the basement or on the first floor of the building. The basement and first two floors were being renovated.

Employees of Pacific Bell were at work on the fifth and sixth floors when dense, black smoke started roiling upward.

“Everybody started yelling,” said Reina Delharo, 21, a Pacific Bell business representative. “We started down the (front) stairs, but there was too much smoke to get through that way. The people below us were yelling at us to go back up. The lights were out. It was very smoky. I was scared.”

She said she and her co-workers, directed by supervisors, eventually made their way to safety by way of a back stairwell.

Lorie Frasier, a service representative, said that “for the most part people were calm” but some who apparently became frightened when they encountered blinding heavy smoke began running and yelling, “Oh, my God, get out of my way!”


Weigert said the fire burned mainly in the space between the false ceiling on the first floor and the bottom of the second floor. Twenty-five fire companies, six ambulances and three helicopters responded to the alarm.