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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Four Story Hollywood Fire Results in at Least One Fatality

Aired August 16, 2001 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Carol Lin.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Colleen McEdwards. I want to update you on a breaking news story that we have been following here in Hollywood, California. More than 100 firefighters have been on the scene all morning.

A residential hotel caught fire after what witnesses describe as an explosion. One person is dead, a woman who jumped from her balcony just as firefighters were trying to rescue her.

There have been several injuries, we don't have numbers confirmed at this point, but firefighters say at least four firefighters are injured, one of them quite seriously after he fell from the fourth floor right down to a second floor landing. That building engulfed when they arrived.

Stairwells burnt out, part of the floor blown out as well. Let's take a listen now to some witnesses, what they had to say to our affiliate, KABC.

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: I was in the room and we were smelling things. Then we thought it was going to be on fire like this one. Then we -- and then it was like an explode and it pushed me into over there, all the wood was in my body. And I couldn't get out -- just because I saw a hole. There was just fire and wood all over the place.

UNIDENTIFIED KABC REPORTER: Is this an apartment building?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED KABC REPORTER: How many people live there?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Five, with my dad, but he wasn't there.

UNIDENTIFIED KABC REPORTER: In the whole building?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: No, not the whole building.

UNIDENTIFIED KABC REPORTER: No. But, I mean the whole building exploded?

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED KABC REPORTER: Tell me what you saw after the explosion.

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: I didn't see nothing. I just came and saw people getting the fire and other stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED KABC REPORTER: What is your name?

MCEDWARDS: All right, and right now we want to show you some tape from earlier when the rescues were going on. You can see the building much more involved. There flames really spreading through. Some of the ladders extending up. Fire officials say they went from area to area, from balcony to balcony. There were several people on their balconies. Many of them were rescued, but as we said earlier one woman panicked and jumped.

This is a four-story building. Fire officials describe it as a center hallway plan. It's a residential hotel. About 12 to 15 units on each floor, so as many as, what, about 60 units possibly in this building.

Fire officials telling CNN just a short time ago, they do consider this a very suspicious fire because that building became involved so quickly, and what witnesses have described as something sounding like an explosion. One fire official saying though, too, that they even heard a report of car hitting the building, but no evidence of that, no confirmation of that.

Investigators on the scene right now, still going room to room, also investigating for the cause, but also looking for people who may still be inside. But the fire is under control at this point.

The tape you're looking at right there is from a little earlier. This all happened just before 4:00 a.m. local time, at 3:41 a.m. You can imagine people being waken up to what they heard and saw. People actually describing the ceiling falling in on them at one point.

We're going to keep you up to date on this story right here on CNN.

We want to toss it over to Brian now, I think, for some other news, or -- OK, Carol.

LIN: Actually a bit of information that just came in, Colleen, from our assignment desk here. It looks like this hotel has a bit of a history.

According to a news release from Los Angeles -- well he's now mayor of Los Angeles, but at the time Jim Hahn was L.A. city attorney. This dates back to August of last year, that a San Fernando man was ordered to pay 8,100 in fines and costs back in August of 2000. Let's see -- he pled no contest to criminal slum violations at the 50 unit Palomar Hotel that, at the time, he owned in Hollywood. So a bit of a history there.

Apparently, he entered his plea to 10 violations of fire, health and building and safety codes at this four-story hotel. And that these charges stem from inspections conducted at the hotel between late April and early July of 1999 by the Slum Housing Task Force. So the violations included, in those inspections, included damage and missing smoke detectors and fire sprinkler heads.

Now you would think in that amount of time, it's been more than a year, that some of those repairs would have been made, but obviously that would be part of the investigation by L.A. city firefighters as to exactly what happened.

MCEDWARDS: And we should mention too, there's no implication -- there's been no suggestion at this point that any of that might be involved in this case. Fire officials are describing it as suspicious, but they haven't said any more this morning about why they feel it was suspicious or what exactly they feel caused it, other than the fact that this was a big fire that obviously started very quickly, and these witness reports of what sounded to them like an explosion.

LIN: This is high-density area. A lot of immigrant families travel to this part of -- just south of Hollywood actually, in the city of Los Angeles, where people are scrambling for affordable housing. This is a very typical situation where you're going to find a lot of families, a lot of children living in a single apartment building.

Anyway, we're looking into all of that. But in the meantime Brian Nelson does have more news today. Hi, Brian.

MCEDWARDS: Hi, Brian.

BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you, Carol and Colleen.

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