Los Angeles, CA Apartment Hotel Building Fire, Sep 1982


From Herald news services
Los Angeles -- A pre-dawn fire roared through an aging downtown apartment building Saturday, killing 19 people, most of whom apparently panicked and ran to their deaths in burning hallways, authorities said.
One of the victims, a 14-month-old boy, clung to life for 14 hours before dying of burns, officials said.
Authorities ruled out arson as a cause.
At least 38 people were injured, some when they jumped out windows in the four-story Dorothy Mae apartment hotel. Many of the one-room apartments were packed with beds.
The 50-year-old brick building on Sunset Boulevard had been deemed a "high-risk" fire hazard by the city more than a decade ago.
Half the victims were children -- four of them infants.
The bodies of mothers with babies still in their arms were sprawled in the charred hallways while just a few feet away, their small rooms were virtually untouched by the fire.
Four of the injured were listed in "extremely critical" condition with second and third degree burns over 90 percent of their bodies, said a county health spokesman.
"There's no question, there's no doubt, that if those people had stayed in their rooms, they'd still be alive today," Deputy Chief AL SHULTZ said.
"What happened is that they panicked, opened the doors, left the rooms and went to the hallways where they were trapped," Fire Department spokesman ED REEDHE said. "The heat and smoke is what got them."
Dozens of the survivors were rescued by neighbors and firefighters who yelled at frightened residents to stay away from the hallways, said Battallion Chief GERALD JOHNSON.
"If these people had stayed in their rooms, they'd be Ok," JOHNSON said of the fatalities.
JOHNSON said it appeared flames rushed down the long corridors past open fire doors designed to keep the flames from spreading.
Most of the victims were Hispanic, he said, adding that he was concerned there may have been more unreported injuries.
"Several who might have been illegal aliens ... may have been burned or hurt (but) they just took off because they were scared," JOHNSON said.
All but two of the one-room apartments were virtually untouched by smoke or flame, and smoke alarms still blared in several apartments two hours after the blaze was extinguished. Smoke detectors are not required in apartment hallways, said fire department spokesman ED REED.
Between 170 and 200 people lived in the brick, stucco-front building, located in a low-income area five miles east of the heart of Hollywood.
The swift-moving blaze, which broke out at 4:27 a. m., was not controlled until 90 minutes later because firefighters made rescue a first priority REED explained.

Syracuse Herald-Journal New York 1982-09-04