Yesterday afternoon, more than 100 firefighters were called to the scene of a massive inferno at a wood-framed apartment complex in Pico Rivera near Los Angeles. Three people, including a firefighter, were injured in the blaze that affected 141 units, displacing 300 residents. Hundreds of people are now homeless and will rely on the city for support.
Firefighters arrived two minutes after the 3-alarm fire was reported shortly after 3:30 p.m. But by 4 p.m., firefighters were forced to move off the structure and change strategy after the building suffered “structural collapse,” according to county fire Chief Daryl Osby. The Fire Department went on to add that by 5 p.m., firefighters exited the building and were in defensive mode, as the fire had jumped to several nearby buildings, creating more damage.
The blaze near Los Angeles comes at a time when a number of wood-frame, multi-family residential structures have been the site of intense fires, fueled by the combustible materials in the buildings in question – most notably in Princeton, NJ; East Boston, MA; Lakewood, NJ; Weymouth, MA; Haverhill, MA; Waltham, MA; Charlotte, NC; Warner Robins, GA; Midvale, UT; Oakland, CA; Dorchester, MA; Lawrence, MA; East Hollywood, CA; Lowell, MA; Waterbury, CT, Emeryville, CA; St. Petersburg, FL; Arlington, VA; College Park, MD; Overland Park, KS; Raleigh, NC; and Maplewood, NJ. There have been dozens over the last few years.
In order to address the vulnerabilities that exist in combustible structures, Build with Strength, a coalition of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association consisting of community organizations, fire service professionals, architects, engineers and industry experts, has stepped up efforts to mitigate the dangers of fire for communities across the country. In reviewing current building and fire safety codes, the coalition is working to identify areas in need of improvement, particularly in updating building codes by including the use of non-combustible materials to minimize the risk of fires.
“Local lawmakers need to address the risks associated with building with combustible materials before more people get hurt,” said Kevin Lawlor, spokesperson for Build with Strength. “No family should lose their home or worse in a fire, especially when the means to prevent such tragedies are reasonable. Requiring strong, resilient materials in mid-rise housing should be a no-brainer.”
The Build with Strength – Los Angeles coalition includes a number of organizations, including: the LA Housing Partnership, Asian Americans in Commercial Real Estate (AACRE), California Black Chamber of Commerce, and Southern California Black Chamber of Commerce, Churches in Action, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), Temple Kol Tikvah, The Los Angeles Civil Rights Association, Los Angeles Shmira Civil Safety Patrol, Los Angeles Urban League, the Southern California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Grant and Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Churches and The Row Church in Los Angeles.