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2 Hurt, 15 Flee Fire at Residential Hotel

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Times Staff Writer

Two people, including a woman who tried to escape flames by clinging to the building’s marquee, were injured and 15 others evacuated Monday night when a “careless smoker” started a fire in a three-story downtown residential hotel, fire officials said.

The greater-alarm fire broke out shortly after 7 p.m. on the top floor of the Leonides Hotel at 510 S. Main St., Fire Department spokesman Greg Acevedo said.

Villa Cuffey, 34, was driven out of a window and onto the hotel’s L-shaped marquee by the flames. She suffered smoke inhalation and first- and second-degree burns to her right arm and shoulders, said Adelaida de la Cerda, a County-USC Medical Center spokeswoman.

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Freddie Banks, a hotel resident who tried to make his way through the building to rescue Cuffey, suffered smoke inhalation and cuts to his hands, Assistant Fire Chief David Sloan said.

James Garbin, a bookstore clerk who witnessed the rescue, said: “They had a hard time getting that lady to go down the ladder; she just stood there on the ledge screaming and the flames were coming out the window behind her.”

The fire caused about $40,000 damage, Acevedo said.

Nine city fire engine companies responded and took about 20 minutes to put out the fire, Sloan said.

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