Authorities responded to the Crouch Memorial Church of God in Christ at 1001 E. 27th Street at about 9:30 a.m. According to the Pastor Lawrence Magee, he was inside the building when he turned on the gas heater and noticed smoke. He said when he went outside, he saw flames and called 911.
"I smelled smoke, and then I came outside, and I saw smoke coming from the heater vent," Magee said.
The attic was already well involved in flames when firefighters arrived, and the fire quickly spread through the Romanesque Revival structure. When the roof of the building collapsed, firefighters were ordered outside to battle the flames from the exterior. But two firefighters were trapped inside.
"This one firefighter was about 25 feet behind the other two because he was pulling hose for them," said LAFD Capt. Laurie Stolp. "And then all of a sudden they just heard a big loud (crash) and the roof caved in, and he ended up on the first floor just surrounded by debris."
An injured firefighter was pulled from the building and rushed to a local hospital. Officials say he fell from the second floor. Another firefighter who was trying to rescue the injured firefighter was also hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
One firefighter was treated and released from the hospital, and the other will spend the night at the hospital for observation, authorities said.
A short time later, a third firefighter was hospitalized with a non life-threatening injury. Officials say the firefighter was spraying water from a hose from the top of a ladder when the mist was energized by a nearby power line, and it shocked the firefighter.
Firefighters aggressively attacked the fire and kept flames from spreading to nearby buildings.
Residents in the area were evacuated as a precaution. The church has been a fixture in the neighborhood for well over 100 years.
"I don't know what happened or what could have taken place, but I just really feel sad. This is a house of God. This is a house of prayer," said neighbor Bonita Mitchell.
The church was built in 1895 and is located in a historic district south of downtown. It was the center of the prohibition movement in L.A. in the early 1900s.
Officials say the building is a total loss. Firefighters gained the upper hand on the flames within about 90 minutes and remained on scene dousing hot spots.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
For people interested in making donations, email: CrouchMemorial@live.com
City News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report.