Flames tore through a large hillside home Thursday night in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles, and tenants feared the home's owner had died in the smoldering ruins.
Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey confirmed that one person remained unaccounted for.
"We're searching as best we can. All three levels of the home have collapsed in some way," Humphrey said. "We're hoping this person has gone to a neighboring home."
The fire was reported about 8:30 p.m. in the 4000 block of North Sea View Avenue at a three-story home on a hillside.
Flames overtook the 9,100-square-foot home, and about 9:15 p.m., an explosion was reported. Aerial footage from KCBS-TV Channel 2 showed blue-colored flames shooting from the structure.
Daniel Nateras of Oxnard said he was one of the home's many tenants. Up to 15 people lived at the property at a time, he said.
A roommate alerted Nateras to the fire, saying that it had started in a lower floor, he recalled.
After learning of the fire, the landlord, an 81-year-old man, ran toward his bedroom and never came out, Nateras said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
More than 140 firefighters responded to the home, and at one point three helicopters circled, surveying the property and monitoring whether embers ignited nearby brush.
At least one person was injured: a 74-year-old woman who suffered from smoke inhalation. Humphrey said she was in fair condition.
As of 11 p.m. the fire was not yet extinguished, but the large flames had subsided. Some spot fires cropped up as firefighters continued to douse the home with water.
Fire crews were expected to work until dawn.
The home was largely destroyed. Humphrey likened the instability and partial collapse of the home's floors to a Jenga puzzle, requiring delicate maneuvering.
The Department of Building and Safety was called to the scene to help stabilize the structure and determine whether nearby homes were in any danger.
On the narrow, winding street — characteristic of Mt. Washington, a neighborhood northeast of downtown Los Angeles — tenants cried and embraced. Others seemed bewildered as they recounted what had led to their abrupt displacement.
11 p.m.: This article was updated with details on the landlord returning into the home.
9:40 p.m.: This article was updated with officials saying up to four people were unaccounted for.