WESTMINSTER : Firefighters Acted Correctly, Chief Says

Fire Chief John T. DeMonaco Jr. defended his department's performance in battling a controversial fire that gutted a martial arts studio in Little Saigon last month.

In a report to the City Council, DeMonaco said the fire had raged for about 15 to 20 minutes before the Fire Department was notified. He said firefighters acted in a "responsible and professional manner" in putting out the blaze, contrary to allegations that they did not act fast enough.

The Sept. 22 fire destroyed the Viet Nam Vo Dao martial arts school at 9265 Bishop Place, which is about 300 yards from a fire station.

On council orders, DeMonaco investigated allegations made by some students, parents and instructors of the martial arts school at a Sept. 28 council meeting. They had charged that the firefighters stood by and failed to move swiftly while the building burned.

However, after a review of audiotapes, DeMonaco said firefighters were on the scene three minutes after they received an emergency call and quickly began to battle the blaze.

In his report, DeMonaco provided a chronology based on the audiotapes.

He said the emergency call came at 4:33 p.m. By 4:36 p.m., firefighters were putting out the fire.

"The fire could have burned for a significant amount of time prior to . . . the 911 call," DeMonaco said, noting the delay may have lasted 15 to 20 minutes.

He did not say what may have caused the reporting delay. People were inside the two-story structure when the fire broke out, he said.

Three firefighters and two civilians were injured, none seriously, DeMonaco said. No other units in the two-story commercial complex were damaged, he said.

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