Bad Wiring Is Suspected in Blaze at IRS Building

Times Staff Writer

Investigators speculated this week that faulty electrical wiring in the roof caused the three-alarm fire early Monday that destroyed the Glendale auditing office of the Internal Revenue Service.

A team composed of Glendale investigators and representatives of the IRS and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms began sifting through the burned-out 24,000-square-foot building Tuesday, looking for the cause of the fire. An investigator said the inspection could take a week.

Windows Shot Out

The IRS building, 125 N. Central Ave., previously had been the target of vandalism, with bay windows being shot out, officials said. But so far, no evidence of arson has been found.

"I would guess that telephone cabling and electrical wiring in the ceiling was responsible, " said Dennis Wilson, Glendale fire investigator.

Glendale Battalion Chief Thomas Brittan said a police officer spotted the smoke and flames at 12:37 a.m. The fire was contained 56 minutes later with the assistance of 14 firefighting companies from Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena. No one was seriously injured. Damage was estimated at $1.5 million.

Held Corporate Returns

Robert L. Giannangeli, an IRS spokesman, said most taxpayers will not be affected because the records at the facility were corporate returns, which he said can be reconstructed from files already stored on computers. No cash or checks were on hand, he said.

Giannangeli said he would not know what, if any, records were damaged until the end of the week, when the building's girders, which collapsed in the fire, will have been pulled out of the way. Files may have survived if metal cabinets stayed close together, he said.

The Glendale office is responsible for all auditing in the San Fernando Valley from Van Nuys east, for Glendale, and for parts of the San Gabriel Valley, the IRS spokesman said.

Those who need tax forms can pick them up at 9050 E. Flair Drive in El Monte, 6230 Van Nuys Blvd. in Van Nuys and 300 N. Los Angeles St. in Los Angeles. People can call 1-800-424-3676 to have the forms mailed, Giannangeli said.

The 80 people who were employed at the Glendale office have been temporarily reassigned to offices in downtown and El Monte, Giannangeli said.

Adjacent offices of the U. S. Department of Labor and CitiCorp Savings were also damaged.

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