Suspected arsonist in custody after massive fire damages building in Westlake district

Investigators said a 45-year-old man was sent to the hospital and was taken into custody by police.

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Friday, January 27, 2023
Suspected arsonist in custody after fire damages building in Westlake
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A man suspected of arson was taken into custody Thursday afternoon after a massive and intense fire broke out at an apartment building in the Westlake District.

WESTLAKE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A man suspected of arson was taken into custody Thursday afternoon after a massive and intense fire broke out at an apartment building in the Westlake District.

The fire engulfed the building located on 2800 W 7th Street at around 5:30 p.m., prompting a large response from firefighters.

AIR7 HD was above the scene and captured dozens of firefighters forming a line to battle the inferno head-on as its intensity grew.

"The reason we were up there for so long is due to the fact that we always have to consider occupants still in there," said LAFD Assistant Chief Dean Zipperman. "We had firefighters working inside and anytime we have firefighters inside, we're going to continue maintaining that stance on the roof and ventilating that building"

Police summoned firefighters to the building after a tense encounter with a 45-year-old man they say was accused of battery.

"[We identified] the suspect as the victim's brother," said LAPD Commander Aaron Ponce. "He has been in some duress, has been in and out of her apartment, has broken into her apartment."

That's when officers went to the woman's apartment on the second floor to further investigate.

"The door is barricaded by a couch and when the officers then tried to help to push it open, they saw him armed with a knife," said Ponce.

That led to a lengthy standoff involving police. Eyewitness News obtained video showing the man going back and forth between two balconies. At one point, the suspect threw furniture items, clothes and even trash that was on fire at police, according to Ponce.

The suspect ultimately ended up jumping off the balcony.

"The man jumped out of the window and the police started to chase him on the roof and stuff, and caught him," said a witness.

The suspect was quickly taken into custody and is now facing a number of charges. Officers evacuated 10 people from eight apartments upstairs and five businesses on the first floor.

It took more than 100 firefighters 53 minutes to extinguish the blaze, but the second floor of the building is considered a total loss.

The owner of an income tax business told ABC7 he lost everything.

"It's totally gone ... everything's gone," said Jorge Peralta.

Other residents are now left without a home.

"That was the first place I lived by myself, like I created a life for myself. That's gone. That is gone now," said resident Caroline Oswalt. "I don't have a home anymore."

The incident remains under investigation.