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A second terrifying high-rise fire has Barrington Plaza residents demanding answers

For residents of Barrington Plaza, the fire that ripped through the 25-story high-rise on Wednesday was a terrifying moment of déjà vu.

A little over six years ago, another fire hit the residential tower, causing extensive damage and leaving some tenants homeless.

The building lacks an internal sprinkler system, fire officials said, and some are now questioning why sprinklers were not installed after the 2013 blaze.

Wednesday’s fire injured 13 people, including a 3-month-old baby and two firefighters. Seven were taken to a hospital, including a 30-year-old man who required CPR and was listed in grave condition and another 30-year-old man in critical condition, L.A. Fire Capt. Erik Scott said.

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At least 15 people, some in bathrobes, were airlifted to safety from the building’s rooftop. Officials said it was the first time the fire chopper had been used in rescue efforts.

Sometime between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., an alarm sounded inside the building, waking 20-year resident Dan Karzen.

The ominous message informed the 84-year-old that he and all tenants were to evacuate immediately.

“I had my pajamas on, so I had to hurry to put some clothes on, grab my phone and walk out the door of my 16th-floor apartment,” Karzen said. “I knew it was bad because there was all this smoke there for a fire that was happening on the sixth floor.”

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Karzen left the building but realized he had nowhere to go. So he crossed the street to a strip mall, where he sat on a small spiral staircase, awaiting word from fire officials.

“I don’t know when we’re going to go back in, and I don’t want to leave because all my stuff is up there,” Karzen said.

About an hour after his evacuation, Karzen got a call from his son in Hartford, Conn., who’d been following coverage of the fire on TV 3,000 miles away.

“That wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago,” said Karzen, who got busy canceling appointments and plans he’d had for the day.

Residents weren’t being allowed back into the building overnight while fire officials investigate. The Westwood Recreation Center was set up as a shelter, but Karzen said he’d likely stay the night at his daughter’s house in Tarzana or with another son in Woodland Hills.

Ali Mara, 26, was sleeping in her apartment across the street from Barrington Plaza when she was awoken by the smell of smoke and the blasts of firetruck sirens.

She left her building and made her way to Barrington, where she could see the fire spreading across the sixth floor and curling around the corner of the building.

“As soon as I woke up, I came out, and we were all just kind of watching it and waiting to see what happened. It was a ton of smoke, and it kind of traveled” around the corner, she said.

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She saw people peering down from the rooftop and peeking out of windows throughout the building.

“It’s just really sad,” she said. “There’s so many things going on in the world. It just sucks. I just feel sad for those people.”

When Liz Bowers was jolted awake by sirens, she smelled smoke and immediately thought it couldn’t be another fire, remembering the 2013 blaze at Barrington Plaza. But when she looked out her window, there it was.

“I was like … it’s Tower A again,” she said.

She had a clear view of the flames and clouds of black smoke. She could hear screams and windows blowing out. Bowers ran downstairs to the public pool area shared by the two buildings and continued watching as firefighters worked to quell the flames and rescue residents.

After witnessing the dramatic events, she decided she’d had enough. She needs to move out.

She thought about all the times she could smell cigarette and marijuana smoke from her apartment, the result of little oversight from building managers, Bowers said. She spent three years knocking on the leasing office’s door, writing letters and making phone calls to building managers. Eventually, she gave up.

“They should have put sprinklers in after the [2013] fire,” she said. “They let everybody smoke. There’s a lot of Airbnb [rentals]. You get all these people coming into party and smoke pot. The landlords don’t care.”


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