An apartment fire in Pico Rivera that displaced about 300 residents appears to have been sparked by some type of plumbing work, authorities said Friday.
The fire broke out about 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the three-story building in the 9000 block of Burke Street, said Los Angeles County fire spokesman Marvin Lim. Flames quickly spread from a vacant room to an attic, eventually tearing across units and burning through the roof.
At one point, firefighters had to flee because battling the blaze inside the building was too dangerous, Lim said. Dozens of units were burned.
Arson investigators with the Los Angeles County sheriff's department were at the scene Friday morning.
All indications are that the fire was most likely caused by plumbing work, sheriff's officials told City News Service.
Kenneth Thompson, who has lived in the building with his family for the past 22 years, said he was driving home from work Thursday when he looked up and saw the complex on fire.
"I saw this big cloud of black smoke just billowing up in the sky," he said. "I could see my apartment fully engulfed and the whole third floor is just done. Period."
Thompson said his wife and their two sons were working and were not home at the time. But he said his two dogs were inside their apartment and he was still waiting Friday to find out if they survived.
"When I come home, the first ones to greet me are my dogs," he said. "So I'm kind of heart broken over that. I'm not worried about the material stuff. The dogs were family."
The American Red Cross set up a shelter for displaced residents at Rivera Park Auditorium at 9530 Shade Lane.
More than 70 firefighters responded to the blaze. Live TV footage showed firefighters in an aerial ladder facing heavy smoke as they sprayed water from above.
After the fire is extinguished, investigators will work to determine how it started.
11:45 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23: This article was updated with new information from fire officials and a comment from a resident of the apartment complex.
6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 22: This article was updated with more information about displaced residents and injuries.