Brush fire causes heavy damage to Glassell Park Mormon church [updated @ 5 pm]

 LAFD/ David Ortiz/C.C. 20.0

Brush fire spread to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints | LAFD/David Ortiz/C.C. 2.0

GLASSELL PARK —  A small brush and grass fire that broke out near the 2 Freeway quickly spread to a Mormon church this afternoon,  causing the roof to collapse and other extensive damage.

It took firefighters assisted by water-dropping helicopters more than two hours to put out the fire that left the  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Fletcher Drive  heavily damaged. The blaze was initially reported at about 3 p.m. as a brush and grass fire before spreading to the 25-year-old church, where the firefighters worked with church staff to salvage valuables and documents before the structure’s roof collapsed.

No word yet on what caused the blaze.

Update @ 2:59 pm: Fire has reached the church and eaves have started to to burn, according to LAFD.  Over 55 firefighters onscene with two helicopters enroute for air support.

[email protected] 3:15 pm:  The two right lanes of the southbound lanes of the 2 Freweway between Verdugo and San Fernando have been shut down, says KNX.

Update @ 3:18 pm: Fire in the attic of church, reports LAFD.

Update @ 3:53 pm: Fire has broken through church roof, reports Fox 11.

Update @ 4:09 pm: Traffic on the southbound 2 Freeway now backed up to 134 Freeway, reports one resident

Update @ 4:12 pm: There were no persons inside the church at the time of the fire, staff tell LAFD. Damage to the interior of the 25-year-old church is limited. “Working to defend rest of structure,” says LAFD.

Update @ 4:16 pm: The “integrity of structure at risk” as firefighters are inside church to salvage and protect valuables, says LAFD.

Update @ 4:44 pm:  The interior of the church has now suffered significant damage after roof collapse, says LAFD. One firefighter has been injured but it’s not clear if that’s related to the collapsed roof.

Update @ 5 pm: Fire was declared knocked down after 2 hours and 14 minutes.

glassell park church fire map

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  1. Yikes. I hope they can get this out soon…

  2. 2 grass/bush fires in 2 days. Meanwhile,. illegal fireworks go unabated morning, afternoon, and evening. Go figure.

    • Stevie,

      I worked hard by phone and emails this fourth to get support from LAPD, Garcetti, Cedillo and O’Farrell, asking that LAPD respond to illegal fireworks calls and take action, wishfully arresting people setting them off. I heard back only from Cedillo’s office re emails. Received call back from LAPD officer on the fourth in response to my calls to non-emergency number. Said the same thing an LAPD desk officer told me, can’t keep up with the fireworks, all over every street here in Echo Park, not enough officers to handle. “It’s been the same for the fifteen years I’ve lived in L.A., ” per one. Well, yes.

      I am working on some kind of communication that would reach all those involved in decisions as to how LAPD and Sheriffs Department determine their staffing on the fourth and who makes decisions on how to handle illegal fireworks calls. May try to submit to LA Times Opinion. Does anyone have suggestions about working on this to try and make next fourth better? Know of any groups working on this? Thanks

      • Nothing will happen…LAPD is right, there’s just no way they could ever keep up. I don’t blame them for not really trying, they have bigger issues to tackle, particularly on a holiday weekend. I have a nice view from the hills in GP, and from what I can see, they’d have to arrest at least three households worth of people on every block down at the bottom of the hill. It was the same when I lived in EP. Pracitically every other house was firing up rockets.

        People up in the hills in any given area are smart enough not to set them off, I NEVER see anyone lighting them in my neighborhood. It all happens down in the flats where the brush fire risk is virtually nonexistent. I’ve lived in various NELA neighborhoods for the past 17 Fourths of July, and I’ve yet to witness a fire started by fireworks. Sure some people inevitably injure themselves, but that risk is their choice.

        To be honest, I look forward to it every year. It’s quite the show. Let the people celebrate.

        • And do you hear the terrible noise of bottle rockets going off right below your windows? The constant noise like a battle field? Are you aware of the palm-tree fires here in the flats where you see no danger of fires? How about the effect on poor animals and the nerve racking effect on humans?

          Let them celebrate! Sure, here in Echo Park the celebration starts on Memorial Day and continues through mid July. We’re still having loud illegal fireworks today, the seventh. Just how long should the people celebrate?

          • I do…from my porch, I can hear just about every firework lit off within a five mile radius, and you are drastically overstating the before/after the 4th effect. Tonight (the 7th), I heard a total of 3 or 4 just after sundown…nothing since. Yeah, people start early and fire their leftovers for a week or so after the 4th, but is it really THAT bad? No.

            I have a cat, and yes..the 4th of July is easily her least favorite night of the year. She hides under the bed for a good 4 or 5 hours, but by midnight, she is fully back to her bossy princess self. She has suffered no lasting psychological damage from a decade of 4ths, at least not that I can see. Her memory appears to be short.

            As for palm fires, I’ve never seen one…but I’m sure they do happen. I grant you that, but as holiday weekend threats go, they are low on the scale. Drunken idiots attempting to navigate their cars around town are the greatest 4th of July danger, and I have no problem with the LAPD focusing their efforts on that front.

            Honesty, what would you have them do? Do you really think they have the resources to clamp down on fireworks? If you do, you are delusional.

        • @atomz

          “I’ve lived in various NELA neighborhoods for the past 17 Fourths of July, and I’ve yet to witness a fire started by fireworks”

          One of my neighbor’s house caught fire a few years ago from knuckleheads lighting off fireworks. Thank god the LAFD was able to put it out in time before it spread to the rest of our homes. (THANKS LAFD!) But not before it had destroyed much of the house.

          Only here do we have morons that think lighting off fireworks in one of the most flammable parts of the country is a good idea.

          The people lighting off the fireworks are selfish morons.

      • LAPD usually won’t arrest somebody for setting off illegal fireworks. They are just cited. Of course, if they set off a large amount of fireworks, they will get arrested. But, set off a bottle rocket or sparkler, they will only get cited!

        This brush fire could have easily been started by a careless smoker on the freeway!

        • David, I agree. There are many possible causes of a grass and brush fire by the side of the freeway and a motorist throwing a lit cigarette butt out the window of their car is high on the list.

  3. If this doesn’t convince property owners of the importance of brush clearance, I’m not sure what will.

  4. Imagine the nightmare of having to call in the bomb squad every time you come across someone’s explosives? Because that is what the larger ones are considered. Better off doing sting operations on the dealers.

  5. Thanks Fire Fighters for doing a great job containing this fire!

    (I know this isn’t the appropriate place to say thanks…)

  6. The LAPD doesn’t have to arrest every single person who sets off fireworks. They just need to start arresting some people and make an example of them by fining and punishing them to the fullest extent of the law so the word gets out. Eventually in subsequent years people will start to think it isn’t worth the risk.

    • Exactly! Saying that there’s no point arresting anyone because they can’t arrest everyone is ridiculous. There has to be at least a possibility of negative consequences. Of course it would be really helpful if it weren’t legal to buy fireworks as close by as Anaheim.

      • Illegal fireworks are available closer than Anaheim… “Just this week, city task forces including the L.A. Department of Street Services, and L.A. Fire and Port Police confiscated 700 pounds of large sparklers, sky rockets and aerial shells from Santee Alley and East Olympic Boulevard in the downtown area.” 07/2015

        But if that seems like progress to anyone, or the way to stop illegal fireworks use, note:

        2012. Sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday seized 6,500 pounds of illegal fireworks worth an estimated $15,000 that they believe were being sold out of a Compton duplex, officials said. The latest bust brings the total amount of fireworks seized across the county this week to about 26,500 pounds, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

        2013 A search warrant was served and deputies seized approximately 3,000 pounds of illegal fireworks.

        2014 About 10 tons of illegal fireworks were discovered Thursday … became involved in the bust in Pico Rivera, … Blvd. Los Angeles …

        2014. Subsequent to Hernandez’ arrest, 22 cases of illegal fireworks, each of which weighed 80 pounds, were discovered in his van. According to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Arson Investigator Dahlmeier, the total amount of 1,760 pounds (nearly one ton)

        So how’s this preventative instead of punitive method working for us? Better to combine it with arrest/fines.

        • BTW, Atomz, I’m working on the solution and will be sure to pass it by you for approval.

          • What you posted is precisely how they should be addressing the problem…going after suppliers. Note how many thousands of pounds of fireworks were seized. Going after individual violators when there are three on every block would be meaningless, and completely ineffective.

            How many deaths result from a few burned palm trees? None. How many from 4th of July DUIs without aggressive enforcement? Many. Allocation of resources counts when it comes to saving lives.

            Small numbers of people are arrested and prosecuted for tagging all the time, but has there been any noticeable decline in the infantile scrawlings on your neighborhood’s walls? No, because enforcement is sparse and random. Arresting a few individuals here and there for setting off fireworks will have no appreciable effect. Aggressive, blanket enforcement might, but again…LAPD does not have the resources to accomplish this task. The best they CAN do are to make the kinds of busts you’ve noted above.

          • Atom. Your rather condescending “Allocation of resources counts when it comes to saving lives” is of course true; I’m a registered nurse and very familiar with triage. However, there are minuscle resources going toward stopping those using fireworks, so other needs should already be covered. Now the LAPD and Sheriff’s office should plan for allocating additional officers for next fourth. The Fire Department also has a stake in this…some of the smaller trucks could be used to drive streets where fireworks are anticipated or occurring. Those from our local Echo Park station would be just half a mile from their station and readily available for calls.

            Apparently LAPD Senior Lead Officer Jason Abner does not consider July Fourth of much importance to the community. When I called his office a message stated that he was out on vacation and referred the caller to Sr Lead Officer Iris Santine 213/793-0778. I left a voice mail for her requesting high priority be given to fireworks calls. My call was not acknowledged.

            I’m a supporter of LAPD but in this case they simply don’t care about the concerns of the people affected by this issue.

          • There is nothing condescending about a simple statement of fact. I’m sorry you took it that way, though a bit confused as well. But whatever.

            Allocation of resources is not only about people…it is also about cost. Illegal fireworks use on the 4th is SO widespread that ratcheting up enforcement to a level that would function effectively as a deterrent would require hundreds, if not thousands of additional officers, and they don’t work for free. Where do you find them? Obviously, it’s not feasible to hire and train thousands of new officers just for one day of massively increased police presence, so the only option is to pull in officers who are off duty that day. Of course, this means they will have already worked a full week, and thus will be on overtime pay from the first hour of their shift.

            Add to this scenario the fact that police officers and firemen are unionized…do you have any idea what it costs to pay union employees to work on a federal holiday, particularly ones who are already starting their day in overtime? You’re probably looking at four times normal pay for those guys, if not more. You would of course also need additional dispatchers on duty to handle the heavily increased volume of calls and radio traffic, and those people will have already worked a full week as well, so there’s a bunch more people in overtime.

            Then there are the additional patrol cars and fire vehicles that would be required, all of which burn fuel and endure wear and tear, which incurs maintenance costs.

            Finally, a SERIOUS deterrent operation would require arrests, not just citations. The vast majority of people who have already shelled out hundreds of dollars for fireworks will not be too bothered by a slight risk of incurring a fine. And guess what? Arrests are not free either. It costs a lot of money to haul people in, process them, put them up in jail for a bit, and then prosecute them. Also, the sheer volume of arrests would be staggering. Where do you propose jailing that many people? How many extra prison guards and jail employees (also union workers, by the way) would be needed to handle THAT load?

            You’re throwing out a lot of, “they should do this, they should do that”, but you don’t seem to be taking into account the massive amount of money that would be required to mount an enforcement effort that would have the kind of noticeable impact you seek. It would easily run into the millions of dollars, and we’re talking about agencies whose every budget penny for the year is already allocated.

            So tell me, where do we find all this money? Will you be the first to step forward and offer to take a big tax hit in order to make it happen? If so, I applaud you…but how many other Angelenos do you suppose will join you in offering up their hard earned dollars? I think we all know the answer to that one.

            I’m not surprised they haven’t returned your call. No doubt, they field your same request thousands of times every 4th of July, and I’m sure they grow tired of explaining that there’s nothing they can do because they simply lack the resources to address the issue in any measurable way.

  7. You people will never succeed in baning fireworks from us Mexicans. We like shiny things. look at our cars. I might rent, but I gots me some rims for my hoooooooooooptie! FWP.

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