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Hundreds Flee Downtown Hotel Fire; No One Injured

Times Staff Writers

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the Los Angeles Hilton Hotel about 3:30 a.m. today when heat from a fire in a kitchen rose through a ventilator shaft and ignited another blaze in a rooftop equipment room. No injuries were reported.

About 200 guests on top floors of the 16-story building at 7th and Figueroa streets were rousted by firemen knocking on doors. Other guests left on their own when they smelled smoke or heard fire sirens and helicopters. Almost all the 900 rooms in the hotel were occupied, officials said.

Assistant Fire Chief Dave Sloan said automatic carbon dioxide extinguishers put out a cooking fire that broke out about 2:30 a.m. on the first floor. But heat from the small fire rose from the ventilator shaft and ignited residue and a filter in the equipment room, he said.

Battalion Chief Claude Creasy said 125 firefighters in 21 companies from San Pedro to the San Fernando Valley responded to the 3:15 a.m. call and knocked down the fire at 4:30 a.m.

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Guests, including some who fled in their nightclothes, were allowed to return to their rooms about 5:25 a.m. Hotel employees welcomed them with coffee and rolls.

The Los Angeles County Health Department inspected the hotel kitchen late this morning to be sure no food was contaminated by smoke or efforts to quell the fire.

Larry Kirk, general manager of the hotel, said the fire caused no significant damage because it was kept inside the metal ventilator shaft.

Kirk said no general alarm was sounded because the fire was confined to the shaft and easily put out. Had the fire spread, he said, sprinklers would have been activated and all alarms sounded.

Some guests who left on their own complained that they heard no alarms and could not get any answer when they tried calling hotel operators.

Not all evacuees stood docilely for the two hours in a nearby parking lot. Nona Burrell of Huntington, W. Va., sat in the lower lobby doing needlepoint.

“I felt like Madame Defarge,” she said, drinking coffee. She referred to the character in Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” who sat knitting as people were beheaded by the guillotine.


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