13 injured in apartment building fire west of downtown LA

A woman who jumped from an upper floor to the street, and a 5-year-old girl suffering third-degree burns, were among 13 people injured at an apartment house fire near downtown Los Angeles today.

The woman, who broke a leg, and the girl were both taken in critical condition to County USC Hospital and expected to survive, Los Angeles fire Capt. Steve Ruda said.

Firefighters discovered a karate uniform belt, a blanket, and a power cord tied together and anchored to a room fixture in one upstairs unit. Bed sheets hung from several balconies, a recognized cry for help, Ruda said.

It was unclear if anyone actually used the improvised escape lines, the fireman said.

The blaze was reported at 8:45 a.m. at 255 S. Loma Drive, just west of downtown Los Angeles. More than 100 firefighters battled the flames and helped injured people, and put the fire out at 9:14, fire department spokesman Erik Scott said

At least three adults and two children were plucked from the burning building, Scott said.

Ambulances rushed patients to the nearby Good Samaritan Hospital, as well as County USC Hospital on the Eastside. Two children with smoke inhalation injuries were rushed to Children's Hospital in Hollywood.

The fire was on the second floor of the three-story apartment house just south of Belmont High School, in a densely populated area midway between the Harbor (110) Freeway and Alvarado Street.

As grim as the situation was, Ruda pointed to doors in the building's hallways and said they had saved lives. He said the doors had been magnetically kept open but were triggered to close when smoke alarms sounded, preventing smoke from filling the hallways.

"People don't die from flame, people die from smoke,'' he said. The apartment complex was relatively new and designed to be in compliance with the city's Dorothy Mae Ordinance, a set of tough fire safety standards that include fire sensors, sprinklers and automatically-closing doors.

During the fire, a city rescue ambulance reportedly was involved in a minor traffic collision several blocks to the east, on Second Street, according to a police department dispatcher.

No cause or damages estimate was released.