Two people are dead and another is in critical condition after an early morning fire at a crowded boarding house in Pasadena on El Sereno Avenue.
When firefighters arrived, there was thick smoke and flames coming from the house, said Lisa Derderian with the Pasadena Fire Department.
“Our priority is life safety, and upon arrival we had several adult males coming out of the house," said Derderian. “We had several reporting there were still victims inside.”
Nineteen men, some of them elderly, were living in the modest two-story house. Steep stairs made it hard for some to get out of the house.
“Several adult males were evacuating with the clothes on their backs,” Derderian told KPCC.
Investigators are looking into whether any zoning laws were violated, Derderian said. The residence is a boarding-type facility housing men ranging from 40 to 50 years old, she said.
The cause of the fire, which was reported at about 2:15 a.m., is under investigation. It may have been sparked by an explosion, NBC L.A. reports.
Neighbors, including Josh Brossard, stood outside the charred house trying to figure out what happened.
“It’s shocking,” said Brossard. “I know everyone that lived in the house. And the two people that died, I know them too. And to me, they were good people.”
The 16 uninjured men who survived were taken to Pasadena-area shelters. Nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution and the American Red Cross is helping the displaced men.
It took firefighters 20 minutes to knock down the flames at the two-story residence.
This story has been updated.