The blaze erupted on the second floor of a converted barn structure on the 13700 block of Eldridge Avenue around 4:37 a.m. The residence was described as a two-story metal-clad "barn-like" residential building located at the rear of the property, behind another home.
The four family members were identified as a 12-year-old Isabelle, 7-year-old Elejandro, 35-year-old Maria Alicia Estrada and 41-year-old Uriel Estrada. Uriel Estrada, a former Marine sniper, died on his birthday. All were found unresponsive and likely suffered smoke inhalation, according to LAFD.
"As firefighters started their aggressive attack, they immediately found victims inside," said Capt. Jaime Moore of the L.A. City Fire Department. "All four were pulseless and not breathing at the time when firefighters found them."
Two were transported to Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar. The other two victims were rushed to Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. The father and his two children succumbed to their injuries at the hospital in the morning. The mother died in the hospital in the afternoon.
The blaze erupted in a storage area on the second floor; the family lived on the first floor. Officials say the landlord could be prosecuted for not providing fire alarms. The building was permitted for residential use, according to investigators, who were looking for possible code violations.
"If this family had had an escape plan, the chances of survival with the combination of smoke alarms would have been so much greater," said Moore.
"As far as the homeowners are concerned, there was smoke detectors on the property," said Brian Weinberger, an attorney for the landlord.
"From what I saw, the ambulances had two kids, two adults, and they were trying to revive the people back to life, giving them CPR, and from what I know, the people have lived there for maybe like three months, so they are pretty new to the residence," said neighbor Mariela Serrano.
The fire was contained within 25 minutes, but firefighters were challenged by heavy winds and burning embers.
The cause of the fire was under investigation. Arson investigators were called to the scene.
Friends of the family said they were in the process of buying a house and were temporarily living on the first floor in the converted barn.