Fire Destroys 20 Palmdale Houses Under Construction

Times Staff Writer

A fire destroyed 20 houses under construction, caused $1.5 million in damage and injured four people in Palmdale on Wednesday, fire officials said. The fire was the third involving partially completed houses in the area during the past three weeks.

The blaze, fanned by winds of 25 m.p.h. and 100-degree heat, broke out about 12:25 p.m. at the West Palm Homes development near 10th Street West and Elizabeth Lake Road, Los Angeles County Firefighter Bob Brown said. In addition to the homes, the fire destroyed two cars and a forklift before 80 firefighters contained it at 1:50 p.m., he said.

The fire also blackened 25 acres of grass near the site, Brown said.

Three firefighters were taken to Palmdale Hospital Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion, and another person drove himself to a hospital after suffering burns, Brown said.

Two of the firefighters were released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon, he said. The third remained hospitalized. The extent of the fourth person's injuries was not known, he said.

The fire's cause was not immediately known. It was being listed as suspicious until arson inspectors completed an investigation, Firefighter Ronald Coffin said.

60% to 70% Complete

Dan Updyke, vice president of marketing for Tiffany Properties of Manhattan Beach, the project's developers, said the destroyed houses were 60% to 70% complete. He said workers were present when the fire began.

Updyke said the company is insured and will rebuild the houses, among 127 planned for the site. The houses, which had a retail value of more than $4.2 million, had been sold and their owners were expecting to move in within two to three months, he said.

"The ones that will be hurt the most are the people that were planning to move in," Updyke said. "We won't have the homes for them to move into."

A plumber's torch touched off an Aug. 22 fire that destroyed three partially completed houses and damaged two others in the Quartz Hill area. The fire caused $230,000 in damage, fire officials said.

A week before that, a blaze whose cause is still being investigated destroyed 20 houses under construction and caused $1.5 million in damage at the California Dawn housing development near Avenue S and 50th Street East in Palmdale.

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