East Los Angeles -- A massive fire destroyed a five-story housing complex under construction early this morning, prompting the evacuation of nearby residents and damaging surrounding structures.
Firefighters responded to the area of Rowan Avenue and First Street about 1 a.m. and encountered heavy fire coming from the complex, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. As many as 150 firefighters were deployed to fight the blaze.
The fire was largely extinguished by daybreak, but firefighters were still inspecting the scene after 9 a.m. to determine if there were any smoldering embers, and an official knockdown would not be declared until the inspection was completed, officials said.
First Street remained blocked off this morning as crews continued to pour water on the smoldering ruins, according to fire department posts on Twitter. Portions of the building have continued to collapse this morning but no injuries have been reported.
A house behind the apartment building was damaged when burning scaffolding landed on its roof. Apartments above the former Unique Theater, a 1920s movie house, next to the fire were also impacted, said the fire department.
Residents of nearby buildings evacuated without injury.
How the fire started was not immediately determined.
The East L.A. Community Corp., a nonprofit developer of affordable housing, broke ground on El Nuevo El Amanecer Apartments in June 2019. The project, which was to have been completed by the end of the year, was to have 31 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans and 28 units for low-income families (2 units will be occupied by managers).
A statement issued the developer said the firm was "devastated" to learn about the fire but did not have any details about what started the fire. It was cooperating with the local authorities and Red Cross.
"ELACC is committed to working with our partners to rebuild Nuevo Amanecer," said the statement. "Not only does this tragedy profoundly affect our timeline for providing these homes to veterans and other vulnerable populations, but families living next door were also impacted by the fire and local workers have lost their jobs building the site. Nuevo Amanecer was a valuable economic force in East LA and we are overcome with grief for the loss of our neighbors’ homes and livelihoods. We are currently looking into ways we can support these families as we recover together."
Update: A male teenager was detained for questioning as a "person of interest" in connection with the fire investigation, according to the county fire department.
*UPDATE* We have experienced numerous collapse issues involving portions of the structure & scaffolding throughout this firefight. Another such collapse has just occurred. This presents a significant danger to FFs on-scene. Despite this, no injuries reported. #RowanIC pic.twitter.com/6k8N3d72D5— L.A. County Fire Department (@LACoFDPIO) September 16, 2020