98-year-old fire victim described as 'caring and giving'

An elderly woman who died of smoke inhalation from a fire in her South Los Angeles home early Saturday was described by a family member as a "caring and giving person" who had lived in the home since the 1940s.

Anna Brooks, 98, was rescued from her South Park home by firefighters and transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, authorities said.


The fire in the 200 block of East 47th Place broke out about 3:40 a.m. and was brought under control by more than 50 firefighters in less than 20 minutes, said Erik Scott, spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department. The fire was apparently caused by a floor heater, he said.

Brooks had celebrated her 98th birthday with family in November, said her niece Shirley Stewart, 69, of Inglewood.

Brooks had lived in her home since the 1940s and worked for 40 years as a custodian with the Los Angeles Unified School District, Stewart said. 

"She was always a caring and giving person, and loved to bake lemon cakes," Stewart recalled. "Oh my God, she could make a lemon cake."

Stewart got a call early this morning from a neighbor who had just tried to rescue Brooks from the burning house.

Vanessa Torres, 21, ran into the house to rescue Brooks as neighbors tried to put the fire out with garden hoses, Stewart said. Torres was pushed back by the smoke and flames.

A caregiver who lived with Brooks in the house also tried to rescue the elderly woman but was overwhelmed by smoke, Stewart said.

Soon after, firefighters arrived, cut open the house's metal security door and found Brooks lying near the entrance, officials said. She was taken to a hospital in grave condition and was later pronounced dead from smoke inhalation.

Brooks' death is at least the eighth fatality in the city of Los Angeles so far this year from a residential fire, officials said. A smoke detector was found in Brooks' home, and investigators were trying to determine if it was functioning at the time of the fire.

In the previous seven deaths, smoke detectors had not been installed or were not working.