A deadly fire that forced residents to leap out of windows as flames swept through a hotel early Thursday in Wilmington is considered suspicious, fire officials said.
Arson investigators with the Los Angeles Fire Department were sifting through debris from the fire that killed a man and injured 15 others.
The cause is under investigation, but it appears to be suspicious, said Erik Scott, spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.
People were trapped by flames inside the two-story Wilmington Hotel at 111 E. C St. shortly after 3 a.m. as firefighters arrived, he said.
Other hotel residents jumped out of windows to escape the flames.
“It was an unusual situation,” LAFD spokesman Daniel Curry said. “You are not usually confronted with jumping people when you get on scene of the incident.”
LAFD Deputy Chief Daren Palacios told KTLA that firefighters had to contend with several obstacles, including bars on the windows and several fences, before entering the building.
A downed power line added to the danger, he said. The power line electrified a fence and exposed firefighters to the risk of electric shock.
Once firefighters entered the building, he said, they found the body of a man.
Of the 29 people who were staying at the hotel, 15, including a child, were hurt and suffered minor to serious injuries, fire officials said.
Most of the injured suffered broken bones from jumping, fire officials said.
Alejandro Lopez, 40, said he was trapped inside his room and the intense flames left him with only one option: Jump out of the window.
He broke the window and leaped out of the hotel, landing on the ground.
Lopez said he was hurt and battered, but it could have been worse.
“My hands are broken… but I am glad to be alive,” he said.
The 20-unit hotel had functional smoke alarms, Scott said.
Arson investigators will work to determine the cause of the fire, officials said, and firefighters and the American Red Cross were assisting families who were displaced.
The uninjured residents were taken to a nearby community center.
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