Sun Valley Apartment Fire Leaves 50 Homeless

A fire swept through the upper floor of a two-story Sun Valley apartment building Friday morning, damaging eight apartments and leaving 50 people homeless, authorities said.

No serious injuries were reported in the blaze, which broke out at 11:53 a.m. at 12980 Sherman Way, officials said. Ten fire companies managed to control the fire after 17 minutes, they said.

Battalion Chief Robert MacMillan said the owners of the building illegally installed fiberglass paneling on the outside upper landing of the 14-unit building as a sun shield. That material fueled the fire, which caused an estimated $100,000 in damage, he said.

The alterations enclosed the entire outside hallway of the building, MacMillan said. The fire, which began accidentally in a kitchen unit of a corner apartment, spread out of that apartment and ignited the fiberglass, MacMillan said.

"With the wind coming in from the south, the fire was just fueled by the fiberglass and extended the entire length of the second floor," he said. "It burned with such heat and speed that it went into every apartment. It broke through the windows and doors. It cut off the escape route for anyone who would have been inside those apartments."

Some residents were apparently at work when the fire started, he said.

But 35 others were evacuated from the building, MacMillan said. The apartment manager, George Russo, cut his arm trying to get a fire extinguisher and was treated at the scene by paramedics, he said.

The fire damaged eight apartments. The unit where it broke out was "a total burnout," MacMillan said, and the other apartments were uninhabitable. The American Red Cross was assisting in helping displaced residents, he said.

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