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Arson Suspected in Blaze That Hurts 8 in Hollywood

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Times Staff Writer

At least three people were seriously injured and five others suffered smoke inhalation Thursday night when fire raced through a two-story apartment building in Hollywood, forcing several tenants to jump from the upper windows.

A 2-month-old infant was saved when his mother dropped him out the window into the arms of a friend, but the mother’s leg was broken when she tried to follow, firefighters reported. Two other people were also injured in similar falls.

All the injured, including those who inhaled smoke, were taken to nearby hospitals.

Seven engine companies of the Los Angeles Fire Department controlled the blaze in 18 minutes, but four apartment units in the building at 5617 W. Fernwood Ave. were destroyed. Damage was estimated at $130,000.

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40 Residents Evacuated

The structure’s 40 residents were evacuated and the Red Cross was arranging accommodations for them.

Fire investigators said the blaze may have been the result of arson, adding that there were three other minor fires of suspicious origin nearby Thursday night.

“And if this fire had happened a few hours later, in the early hours of the morning,” Fire Capt. Kurt Swan said, “there is no doubt in my mind that there would have been a number of fatalities.”

The blaze began, Swan said, in a couch that was sitting in a ground-floor hallway and roared up an open staircase to the second floor.

“The couch went up so fast,” an investigator said, “that it seemed to us as though someone must have poured something flammable on it.”

One of the first to notice the smoke was Thanes Ratanasirimongka, who lives on the second floor. He told firefighters that he opened the door to his apartment and was forced back by a wall of flame.

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Ratanasirimongka said he got his wife and their daughter, Tanya, to a window where his wife called to a friend, Nipon Ithopol, 35, who was waiting below. Ithopol braced himself and caught the baby when it was dropped to him.

Paramedics who examined the child later said she appeared to be in good condition.

Not so her mother, whose right leg was broken when she climbed out the window and dropped to the ground.

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