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Arson-set Brentwood fire forces evacuations

November 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A large townhouse complex under construction caught on fire early Thursday morning in Brentwood, forcing the evacuation of around 100 people. Arson investigators determined the fire was the result of an arsonist.

More than 100 firefighters responded to the structure on the 12300 block of Gorham Avenue, which is near the Brentwood Country Club.

"I'm pregnant, so I can smell everything. I woke up to smoke, but I didn't see anything," said Annalise Bender, whose home was destroyed.

Moments later, Bender and her neighbors saw large flames shooting out of six townhomes that were under construction.

"They were in the framing stages. They're not protected, so it's free-burning lumber," said Capt. Jamie Moore of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The fire quickly spread to Bender's home.

"I had maybe one minute to put on my clothes, grab my dog and get out of my house. It's completely destroyed," said Bender. "I've lost everything."

Thanks to the firefighters, the mother-to-be was able to recover one precious heirloom.

"The firefighters were really kind. They actually went back into my house and found my engagement ring," Bender said.

Several neighbors said they were able to grab their prized possessions before evacuating.

"I grabbed my painting and my puppy and we ran out," said one resident.

There were no reports of injuries. Officials said there is more than $1 million in damages.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation Thursday.

Anyone with information related to the incident should contact the Los Angeles Fire Dept. Arson and Counter-Terrorism Section at (213) 893-9800.

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