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Fire Erupts in California Apartment Building

Aired May 24, 2002 - 14:34   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.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now we want to update you on breaking developments out in California, particularly the explosion that turned into an apartment fire in Encino, California. We want to pick up the coverage now from our affiliate, KABC. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Huge plumes of black smoke rising into the air earlier. They appear to be getting a handle on the fire portion of this. Now we're seeing much more white smoke. L.A. city fire on the scene. 5301 New Castle, Encino, is the address. All three floors of this building involved.

We also heard reports earlier that possibly it originated on the second floor. We have L.A. air support overhead. Sixteen units on hand, rescue ambulances arriving. It's just south of the 101 freeway, north of Ventura Boulevard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you know that area, you know how densely populated it is. That's probably as densely a populated area as you'll find anywhere in Los Angeles, in between those two major thoroughfares, the 101 and the Ventura Boulevard. A lot of condominium, a lot of apartment units.

And most of the residential structures are south of Ventura Boulevard. This is just north of Ventura Boulevard, between the boulevard and the freeway. So a lot of people out there. And so this debris, look at the debris. This is a separate building in the same complex. And you can see debris from the explosion reached all the way up and landed on the roof there, three stories high.

So we're talking about probably, 30, 40 yards away. And still, that debris flew into the air. And it gives us a clue as to why we have so much destruction in this one sort of center section building. Something inside that building exploded with great ferocity and started the fire.

And I would imagine anybody at home in any of those buildings would have been at least injured, at least slightly, from flying glass and other debris that was catapulted by the explosion throughout that particular complex. Now, why it happened is another question. We're going to have to wait a while on that one, as they fight this fire that was started by the explosion.

Sixteen units on scene of the L.A. City Fire Department. It's interesting how serious this is. They had six units initially dispatched. And as soon as those six arrived, they called for every bit of backup they could get, to come in here and help put out the flames and deal with this situation.

And so ten more units were dispatched immediately, and they have 16 on scene with 80 firefighters, obviously getting a handle on the fire now. Because you can see all that white smoke, which means a lot of water now on the flames. And the white smoke rising is usually a good sign in this type of fire.

But you can see, as we pan down from air 7, we do have ambulances on scene, fire department paramedic ambulances down there. We haven't seen anybody yet that's actually been treated. But we're getting word through the wires and other sources that there are injuries and they are being treated in alleys, and sort of the little byways that are safe, behind and away from the street, before they transport them, if they do need to be transported.

But these are large apartment structures and large condominium units in this area, with very dense, residential living in this area. And as we pan down the street, you can see the number of fire trucks and how far they had to pull those hoses. The unit that blew up was interior from the street by about 50 or 60 yards.

So they had to hook up their main lines into the hydrants. You can see that one line snaking all the way down to the hydrant, way down to the other end. And then they pull those lines all the way to the unit. And then the 50 or 60 yards inside, to be able to get the amount of water that they needed to get on the flames, to be able to put them out.

But they are winning that battle. The question is still, what started this explosion in the first place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And also, the battalion chief has warned that there's always a possibility in these case of a secondary explosion. So they have to be very careful about that. We haven't heard anything about evacuations. And we were just saying, this is a densely populated area. There are a lot of apartment complexes right next to each other, and other buildings, and commercial buildings and office space, too.

So there are a lot of people there who might be at work right now and have heard this. We haven't heard if they are evacuating anyone. But you can see now that the black smoke has now turned mostly white.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's give them a comparison with this and the fire earlier. Because we're seeing that white smoke, even though you see small amounts of flames. But this was the scene when Air 7 got on scene, only a minute or two flight from Van Nuys airport, where Air 7 is based. And you can see how intense that fire is burning, compared to the way it is now. It's been 40 minutes since it was first reported, 39 minutes.

So in a matter of that period of time, the fire department has put enough water on it to get those flames out. But this structure was totally involved in flames, as well as blown apart at the time the first units...

WHITFIELD: You've been watching and listening to coverage from our affiliate KABC, out of Encino, California, where about 16 Los Angeles County emergency crews are on the scene there, at what appears to be a garden apartment, a three-story apartment complex, where an explosion took place not long ago.

And following that, a pretty colossal fire there. We don't know how many people may have been in that area, particularly in that apartment complex, when the explosion and the fire erupted there. But investigators are on the scene. They're trying to figure out exactly what happened, what caused this reported explosion, and why this fire is so out of control right now.

About 16 L.A. County units on the scene there, still trying to get things under control there. And of course, we'll be following that for you. And that, just in the Los Angeles County area in Encino, California.

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