2 Firefighters Rescued After Roof Collapse in Fire at Historic South LA Church

A team of firefighters rescued two colleagues trapped under rubble after a roof collapse

By Jonathan Lloyd, Toni Guinyard and Nyree Arabian
|  Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013  |  Updated 5:11 PM PDT
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    Firefighters rescued two colleagues trapped under burning rubble Tuesday morning after the roof of an historic South Los Angeles church collapsed during a fire.

    Crews responded to Crouch Memorial Pentecostal Church of God In Christ (map) at 27th and Paloma streets at about 9:30 a.m. It took more than 150 firefighters nearly four hours to extinguish the blaze at the location, formerly known as Beth Eden Baptist Temple and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Firefighters were on the second floor of the building when part of the roof collapsed, said Capt. Jaime Moore, spokesman for Los Angeles Fire Department.

    PHOTOS: Crews Battle "Extremely Dangerous" Church Fire

    Two firefighters were trapped under burning debris and a trained rapid intervention team -- equipped with power tools and other equipment used in entrapment situations -- entered the burning building.

    "The fire was running the attic," Moore said. "The team went in and pulled them out of the rubble. They look like they're in stable condition from the initial assessment."

    One firefighter was hospitalized and a second firefighter was treated at the scene, Moore said. Aerial video showed a firefighter transported from the structure on a gurney and placed in an ambulance.

    The firefighters were talking when they were removed from the building, LAFD Chief Brian Cummings said. The hospitalized firefighter did not suffer burns or smoke inhalation, according to the LAFD.

    An ambulance unit was called back to the site early Tuesday afternoon following a report of a third injured firefighter. Moore said he might have suffered electrical shock as he worked with a ladder pipe -- a nozzle attached to an aerial ladder and used to direct heavy streams of water from above the fire. 

    The injury is considered non-life threatening.

    The initial investigation indicated the building was not occupied.

    "We can never be absolutely certain until the fire is out, but our belief is that the building was vacant at the time," Cummings said.

    Cummings said he heard LAFD radio communication reports that two firefighters were "unaccounted for" before he arrived at the fire.

    "That's the worst thing you can hear," Cummings said. "All of that weight came down on top of them."

    A cause was not officially determined, though Pastor Lawrence Magee said the fire began shortly after he switched on a wall heater inside the church.

    A multi-agency House of Worship Arson Task Force will be part of the investigation -- standard procedure involving church fires.

    The fire broke out in a densly populated neighborhood, and firefighters protected nearby homes from blowing embers.

    Donations are being accepted to rebuild the century-old church. They can be made to the "Crouch Memorial Rebuilding Fund" created with Bank of America -- account No. 2158906449, routing No. 121000358.

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