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Palomar Hotel Engulfed in Flames

Aired August 16, 2001 - 07:47   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: We're going to take our audience right now back to Hollywood where a residential hotel is engulfed in flames right now. Several people have been injured, including firefighters who were, at one point, trapped when a stairwell collapsed in this fire.

We are going to hear now from Captain Steve Ruda of the L.A. Fire Department.

UNIDENTIFIED KABC REPORTER: Here, Alan (ph), quite a concern for the many residents inside the building at this time. This eyewitness just told me that he believes that many people could be trapped in there. Right now we know, at this time, that several people are injured, including firefighters.

Standing by live with me is Captain Steve Ruda of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

What can you tell us so far, Captain Ruda?

STEVE RUDA, CAPTAIN, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPARTMENT: Very serious situation here and a very serious fire. We have a four-story center hallway apartment house. Firefighters on arrival had heavy fire on all floors. Witnesses said there was a possible explosion of some kind. Witnesses said also too there's an explosion that threw glass all over the street.

We had trapped firefighters for a moment that went through an elevator shaft in the rear of the building, so we had some injuries to firefighters as well as some civilians. We're assessing all the situation right now, too. We do have some fatalities. One woman, who firefighters tried to save with a 35-foot ladder, wouldn't wait for the ladder and she jumped in her panic, so at least one confirmed fatality of a female. I'll get ages and more information, but I just wanted to get back to you to just give you some accurate information.

Very serious situation. A lot of firefighters from L.A. Fire Department here on scene with paramedics assessing the situation and assessing victims. Many victims were trapped on their balconies. Firefighters were able to get to them initially. I'll let you know how many rescues we made there. A lot of the fire people kept -- they kept the civilians in their rooms while they went to fight fires so that it was too dangerous for them to escape out the -- out the rooms because there was fire on all floors. Very suspicious fire, unusual situation here at 4:00 this morning. I'll give you more information as it develops.

UNIDENTIFIED KABC REPORTER: OK, thanks a lot.

LIN: Right now we'll take you to the scene live. You're looking at a helicopter shot of that hotel where at least half of it is now fully engulfed in flames.

We're going to join in now with the reporter on the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED KABC REPORTER: ... front of the building and we're not seeing any evidence of that yet. We just got on scene and we're certainly looking for that type of activity.

We have firefighters on the roof, but they are being very cautious. One firefighter reportedly fell from the third floor to the first floor and was injured, so more than likely this fire started on one of the lower structures and burned its way up towards the top of the building.

Still a lot of thick heavy smoke coming up out of this structure. You can see not a lot of flame. They ventilated the roof as good as they could, at this point in time. And an entrance team is inside the building right now searching for anyone who may still be trapped.

But this is a tragic fire that started so early in the morning, at 3:45, and it looks like it traveled very quickly through the building. This is a hotel, apartment-type building with some permanent members who live there -- permanent residents who were trapped inside their building -- or inside the building, as we heard earlier. And because of that, it was very difficult for them to get out quickly.

We still don't have a complete assessment as to how many people may have been injured, but we do know it's a tragic blaze. It is still burning inside the structure, and L.A. city fire crews doing everything they can with all the equipment they have to try and get this fire out and save anyone who may still be trapped inside the building.

LIN: Live report from KABC's helicopter on the scene of a hotel fire.

The Palomar Hotel at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Western, it is a residential hotel. And according to an eyewitness, the explosion went off at about 3:41 in the morning. Residents scrambling out of their apartments to try to get to the ground floor. They were blocked by flames. They had to take the exterior ladders out.

One eyewitness said in addition to the woman who ended up jumping to her death because she was panicked that he saw that there was a dead child inside. That has yet to be confirmed by the fire department. Several firefighters injured in this. People are saying that when the explosion went off, it shattered windows and doors exploded open as residents were trying to run for their lives.

We are going to stay with this story, keep an eye on it throughout the morning.

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