Store owners and workers were boarding up windows on Monday, April 23, and examining the debris left behind after a spectacular early-morning fire shuttered four apparel stores on Maple Avenue bordering Santee Alley.
Some 150 firefighters responded to the blaze, reported at 2 a.m. on Sunday, April 22. Truck teams perched ladders onto the side of the building, and firefighters cut holes on the lightweight panelized roof, according to Los Angeles Fire Department officials.
Scores of firefighters were forced into a defensive position 48 minutes later, when the roof of the commercial building at 1025 Maple Ave. started to look “spongy.” One firefighter was injured when shelving glass fell and lacerated his arm. He was taken to County-USC Medical Center, where he was listed in fair condition, fire officials said.
It took firefighters 1 hour and 40 minutes to extinguish the blaze at the 5,000-square-foot commercial building, which held four stores. Those stores were VIP Fashion Inc., a menswear store; Top 2 Toe; El Mundo; and Hendy.
The cause of the fire is being investigated, according to fire officials.
Los Angeles Fashion District enforcement officers were standing guard outside the taped-off area on Monday to keep curious onlookers from getting too close to the charred debris stacked up on the sidewalks.
One section of Santee Alley also was cordoned off because the stores either fronted Santee Alley or both Santee Alley and Maple Avenue.
David, who said he was the owner of VIP Fashion, stood in front of his store looking traumatized. He didn’t want to give his last name. He said he found out about the fire when neighboring merchants called him on Sunday morning. Eun Joo, whose women’s apparel store on Santee Alley fronts the burned-out building, said she got a phone call Sunday morning from the owner of a nearby blanket store. “I was scared,” she said.
Jose Lopez, owner of So Cal Women’s Apparel, was standing with friends looking at the blackened apparel and fixtures left behind. “I was shocked,” he said, noting he received a call at 8 a.m. on Sunday about the fire from one of his workers. He said he had to close on Sunday, one of his busiest days, because of the fire.