Authorities are investigating the cause of a raging fire in a 25-story residential high-rise in Los Angeles on Wednesday that left eight people injured, including a 3-month-old, the city’s fire department said.
“Right now, we’re labeling this a suspicious fire,” Los Angeles City Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said.
Arson investigators were on the scene, combing through debris and speaking with witnesses, public information officer Erik Scott said in an afternoon press conference. Investigators were looking into whether the fire could have been related to a similar blaze two hours earlier and three blocks away.
“Right now, there’s no information that they are connected,” Deputy Chief Justin Eisenberg said. “The only reason we would look into that is because they’re close … in time and proximity.”
While Terrazas initially said that authorities had a suspect in custody, Eisenberg later said no one was in custody. Eisenberg did not say whether there had been a suspect in custody earlier in the day.
“It’s very, very early in this investigation,” Eisenberg said. “We don’t know really whether we have an arson or an accident at this time.”
Most of the injured suffered from smoke exposure, and six were transported to a local hospital, the LAFD said in a statement. Two people, both adults, were transported in critical condition, Scott said. Some of the injured in the 240-unit building may have been burned, Scott said.
Despite initial reports from the fire department that people had jumped from the sixth floor of the building to escape the blaze, officials later said no one had jumped.
“We had two people who had contemplated jumping,” Deputy Chief Armando Hogan said. “No one jumped. There are no fatalities at this incident.”
Instead, the department was able to contact people inside the building and instructed them to go to the roof for evacuation, Hogan said. Fifteen people were transported from the roof directly to the hospital, Terrazas said.
The American Red Cross established an evacuation center for displaced residents at the Westwood Recreation Center.
More than 300 personnel and four helicopters responded to the blaze, the LAFD said. Nearby Santa Monica Fire Department, LAPD, LA Sheriff and allied agencies also responded.
The Barrington Plaza high-rise building, built in 1961, does not have a sprinkler system because it was built during an era when sprinklers weren’t mandatory, Terrazas said.
Authorities were also investigating whether the building’s smoke alarms were functioning and whether the building had been inspected recently, Scott said.
Personnel “knocked down” the fire just before 10 a.m., said Hogan, who called it a “herculean effort.” Firefighters were conducting a floor-to-floor search for additional victims.
The fire broke out before 8:30 a.m. in the Sawtelle neighborhood. At the time, firefighters were still on the scene of a fire in a 26-story office building three blocks away.
The nearby fire started around 6:30 a.m. on the bottom three floors of the building. More than 50 building occupants were safely evacuated, and one man was taken to the hospital, the department said in a statement.
The Barrington Plaza high-rise is located along Wilshire Boulevard near a string of restaurants and gyms.
A fire that erupted on the 11th floor of the same building in 2013 displaced up to 150 residents and injured two people, according to Los Angeles Times.
In 2014, 71 of the city’s roughly 200 residential high-rises didn’t have sprinkler systems installed, according to the Times.
Follow USA TODAY’s Grace Hauck on Twitter at @grace_hauck.