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Palomar Hotel Fire Nearly Extinguished

Aired August 16, 2001 - 08:16   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.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go live to Hollywood, California, where a residential hotel which has been on fire. You're looking at live shots there right from our affiliate KABC. You're looking at someone being removed carefully down a ladder. Fire officials have been doing this all morning. They are right now inside the building going from room to room to see if anyone is there. One person has been confirmed killed, a woman who panicked on her balcony and jumped.

Four firefighters were injured. This was a difficult fire for them, a difficult scene when they -- when they got there, the building was essentially engulfed. A stairwell was burnt out. Part of a floor was blown out as well. Some of the firefighters actually fell. One fell from the fourth floor down to the second floor so there's some injuries there, but lots to confirm yet in terms of their condition or whether or not there will be more fatalities here.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and a lot of confusion, Colleen, when that explosion occurred at about 3:41 in the morning. Many of the residents waking up to the sound of an explosion as well as shattering glass. And in some cases, the ceiling falling down on them.

We've got some eyewitness testimony. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You saw a lady jumping from the building?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, from the window of one of the apartments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was two kids that were saved. There was a lady on the third floor and they had two kids up there. And the firemen could only go up so far and she handed two of the kids to the fireman and he brought them down. And when he went up for the third time for the lady, she couldn't make it anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... jumping -- like from fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me -- start from the beginning, what did you hear? What did you see? And then -- and then get to that part.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I was at home and then I just felt like an earthquake and like this started like shaking. And I came outside and I saw the fire up and I came out to check. Then we saw this lady jumping and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You saw a lady jumping from the building?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, from the window of one of the apartments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was two kids that were saved. There was a lady on the third floor and they had two kids up there. And the firemen could only go up so far and she handed two of the kids to the fireman and he brought them down. And when he went up for the third time for the lady, she couldn't make it anymore. She just jumped out the window.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So she just couldn't stand the heat or the flame?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The heat and the smoke. I mean she couldn't breathe anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were you thinking when you saw this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was hoping she wouldn't jump because it's three stories up, and I think she died. She had to die because there was three stories high and she just jumped out the window.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your name, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One guy was telling me that there was one lady with her two kids that they never saw come out. And downstairs, the manager lived there. He worked there with his newborn baby, two months, and two little girls, 9 and 12, the wife and some other foster children. And I had never -- they -- it was just destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

LIN: And here is the scene live right now as the firefighters begin to assess the damage. They do have this fire completely extinguished. They are now going room to room, window to window, looking for missing people. Not everybody has yet been accounted for.

There is going to be an investigation, however, because the fire department says no doubt about it, this fire is suspicious. In fact, when firefighters arrived on the scene, they said that all four floors of the Palomar Hotel at Santa Monica and Western were completely engulfed in flames. That's very unusual to arrive at a fire scene with that much damage. And as a result of that, when firefighters tried to enter the building, several of them were going up a stairwell and it collapsed. One firefighter seriously injured. He fell from the fourth floor all the way down to the second floor landing. However, we are being told that none of the injuries are life threatening, but they still don't exactly know what his status is, clearly could have some pretty serious injuries in a situation like that.

Lots of different speculation and rumors about what may have caused this explosion -- some sort of an explosion. The firefighters have been hearing that people were saying that they heard a car crash but no evidence to that as you look at the exterior of the building right now.

And, Colleen, it looks like right now -- it looks like a very calm scene, but a lot of activity going on inside as they're looking for survivors.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, that's right, and a fire official we just had on did say that the major portion of that fire is out. That happened at 4:57 local time. You could see a few flames still on the roof flickering there but the major portion of the fire is out. Firefighters on that scene now looking to see if there's anybody else inside.

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