A fire originating at a homeless encampment engulfed a vacant building at 723 S Ocean Front Wk

On Wednesday morning a fire broke out at a homeless encampment on the Venice boardwalk and spread into a vacant commercial building.

According to the LAFD, 116 firefighters were on scene and it took 2 hours and 17 minutes to extinguish the flame in a 68 year-old, two-story, 6,952 square-foot commercial structure located at 723 S Ocean Front Wk.

Firefighters responded to a call for a structure fire at 6:19 a.m., according to LAFD Deputy Chief in Charge of Operations for the West Bureau Armando Hogan. 

Upon arrival, they saw significant flames engulfing the building and approximately 26 minutes into the operation firefighters took a defensive position on the blaze as a portion of the roof collapsed.

According to Hogan, firefighters took a “surrounding and drowning” approach using heavy water streams to combat the fire on multiple sides of the building. At 8:36 a.m. LAFD reported that the main body of the fire was extinguished. 

While the fire heavily damaged one building and threatened to spread, LAFD said firefighters were able to prevent damage to a pair of adjacent structures including another home. No injuries are reported at this time.

Heavy rescue and arson investigators are on scene. Hogan said investigators would begin a search of the building when it was safe to do so and try to make a determination on the cause of the fire.

“To our knowledge the building was vacant but we always want to, out of an abundance of caution, to make sure there is no one inside that structure,” said Hogan.

Hogan said the arson team would make an official determination of cause and he said as the weather turns colder, warming and cooking fires are very common at homeless encampments and in the Venice area.

According to Hogan there were around 25 tent structures near the fire.

“One of our biggest concerns in our initial actions is we have a large homeless population there, we wanted to make sure that those individuals are safe and at a safe distance,” said Hogan.

The fire presented several challenges including the need to force entry to the vacant building and the risk of flames spreading to nearby buildings, according to LAFD Public Information Officer Cody Cody Wireter.

“A lot of firefighters on scene are from this Westside area and conduct pre-fire plans on a regular basis meaning they train in this area and walk through what would be the best hoseline selection and deployment location,” said Wireter. “With the quick response firefighters were able to surround this building with hoselines and protect those nearby exposures.”

Clara@smdp.com

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