West Hollywood building fire deemed suspicious; 1 person dead

John Gregory Image
Thursday, May 21, 2015
WeHo building fire deemed suspicious; 1 person dead
EMBED <>More Videos

One person has died in West Hollywood following an overnight building fire, which was deemed suspicious in nature by investigators.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- One person has died in West Hollywood following an overnight building fire, which was deemed suspicious in nature by investigators.

The 2nd-alarm fire broke out in the 9000 block of West Melrose Avenue around midnight. Responding fire crews said they saw flames shooting out from the roof of the structure, which officials say was abandoned.

Firefighters found the victim, described as a man in his 50s, unresponsive on the first floor of the structure. Paramedics began treating him and transported him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Investigators believe the man may have been homeless.

Sheriff's arson squad and homicide detectives are investigating the incident.

Firefighters said packrat conditions in the structure complicated the firefight.

"It was a building ready for demolition. There appeared to be people living inside the building, so there was a lot of load in the building that wouldn't be anticipated from the vacant building," said Anthony Whittle with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Merchants along Santa Monica Boulevard say they see homeless people going in and out of that building all the time. Investigators are trying to track down some of those individuals for possible clues.

"Obviously we want to spend some time in the area to see if we can find any folks that might have seen or heard something, as well as any information on anybody that frequents the area or frequents that building," said Lt. Steve Jauch with the sheriff's department.

In addition to witnesses, detectives are also checking surveillance cameras in the area to look for anything suspicious. The cause of the blaze was unknown.

If you have any information about this incident, you're urged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. You can also provide anonymous tips by calling Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.