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South LA man hospitalized from apartment fire

April 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fire investigators said a terrifying fire at a south Los Angeles apartment building could have been a lot worse.

Some residents said they felt trapped because there was so much smoke outside their front door that they could not see through it. Witnesses also said some people were screaming for help because they could not unlock the burglar bars to their windows to get out.

Mandisa Shaw said it was after 1 a.m. Monday morning when she grabbed her children looking for an exit after a fire broke out at her eight-unit apartment building.

"As soon as I opened it my whole door was on fire," said Shaw.

Six people apparently suffered injuries due to smoke inhalation. Witnesses said one person was seriously overcome by smoke.

Shaw said she was met by flames when she attempted to open the front door of her unit in the 10800 block of South Broadway Street in south L.A.

"The flames kind of came in so I hurried up and closed the door," said Shaw. She also said that she and her children went out of her apartment window to the balcony and were soon rescued by fire fighters.

Zsa Zsa Young said with the smoke detectors sounding off, she scrambled to get her kids to the front door of her apartment where a neighbor was screaming for her to open up and get out.

"She was yelling 'open the door' so she couldn't get it open," said Young. "So I just hit the door and it opened. We went down the stairs and we went out to the street."

Fire officials said by the time they responded to the scene, the fire which they believe started in the stair well leading into the upstairs apartments, had already been put out.

Officials said the building was filled with heavy smoke. They would not elaborate, only adding that dogs smelled an accelerant in the stair well.

Fire fighters said while several people made it out on their own they had to saw through burglar bars to get trapped residents out of their apartments.

"I heard our neighbor Robert Mitchell saying 'help help,'" said Young. "He collapsed at his window trying to get out, but the bar gate would not open. They had to saw the gate and pull him out."

Family members of 53-year-old Mitchell said that he is in serious condition in the hospital. Arson detectives are investigating what actually sparked the blaze.