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Architect arrested in death of LAFD firefighter

Gerhard Becker (L) is seen in court on February 15, 2012.

February 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Eyewitness News has learned that an arrest has been made in the death of a Los Angeles City firefighter who was killed while fighting a house fire in the Hollywood Hills a year ago.

Gerhard Becker was charged on Wednesday with one count of involuntary manslaughter. The 48-year-old appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court, where he pleaded not guilty.

The German national is the owner and architect of a luxury home in the Hollywood Hills that erupted in flames on Feb. 16, 2011. As firefighters battled the blaze, a ceiling collapsed, killing 61-year-old L.A. City firefighter Glenn Allen.

Investigators found evidence of negligence in the installation of a fireplace in the home that they say touched off the blaze.

"The fire started as a result of gross negligence of construction of the fireplace at the third floor, which led to the collapse of the ceiling," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

Becker has been held since his arrest Saturday at LAX when he flew to L.A. from Spain. He had been out of the country since the 2011 fire.

When Allen responded to the 12,500-square foot mansion, crews didn't realize flames on the roof had melted a sprinkler system, filling it up with water. Authorities said the ceiling of the mansion collapsed on Allen and five other firefighters.

Allen was rushed to a hospital, but he died from his injuries two days later. Allen was the first LAFD firefighter to be killed in the line of duty since March 2008.

"Following our city's fire codes ensures both your safety and the safety of the first responders, people like Glenn Allen. And if you fail to follow the fire codes, and you violate the fundamental public trust, criminal charges, like the ones being announced today, will be filed against you," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Becker is being held on $2 million bail. If convicted, he faces four years in state prison.