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2 women dead in suspected arson fire in South Los Angeles abandoned house

March 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Two women died in a fire in an abandoned house in South Los Angeles Friday. Police and fire investigators say the fire appears to have been deliberately set. The case is being investigated as a possible double-murder.

The house, located on Vernon Avenue, was known locally as a temporary home for transients. Neighbors say it's been vacant for a long time since the clinic that was housed there closed down, except for homeless people who broke in and used it.

Investigators believe that in the early morning hours someone living there started a fire that consumed the house's interior. Firefighters and investigators returned Monday to search for clues to the arson.

All the windows were barred. Firefighters say when they arrived to battle the flames, they saw a woman's face in one of the windows. Smoke overcame her and she disappeared inside. They were already sawing off the bars to get inside.

"Upon the firefighting attack, a 47-year-old female came to the window seeking to be rescued by the firefighters," said LAFD Arson-Counterterrorism Chief Michael Greenup. "Firefighters noticed her, cut back the bars that you've seen behind us, and attempted and eventually made the rescue of this female patient."

The woman was hospitalized in critical condition, but died over the weekend.

"Robbery-Homicide detectives from LAPD are treating this as a homicide," said Greenup. "It's under investigation. Both entities are working together."

Firefighters went through the house at the time looking for other victims and to be certain the fire was controlled. Sunday, they found the body of a second woman hidden in the rubble.

Firefighters say the place was filled with mattresses and there was a pile of lighters in one location. They did find indicators that accelerants were used to help start and fuel the fire.

"We did use our accelerant canine, went thoroughly through the building and we were able to get some good leads from the canine," said Greenup.

The women's identities were not released pending autopsy results.

If you have information related to the case, contact the Los Angeles City Fire Department Arson Investigation Unit at (213) 893-9850, or LAFDArson@LACity.org.