A family, including a mother, father and two children, were killed Monday after a fire in a metal storage building that had been converted into a residence.
The fire was reported at about 4:30 a.m. by a neighbor who said smoke was coming from a 800-square-foot building on a property in the 13000 block of Eldridge Avenue in Sylmar. The family was living on the bottom floor of the two-story structure behind a house.
About 35 firefighters knocked down the fire, contained to the second floor, in about 25 minutes. Firefighters found the victims huddled "pulseless and non-breathing" inside the building.
"The entire family lived on the first floor with a kitchen, couple bedrooms and a living room area," said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Jamie Moore. "Both mother, father and both children have died as a result of the morning fire ... It's safe to assume the case of death is smoke inhalation.
The four family members who died were identified by friends as Maria Estrada, the mothe; and Uriel Estrada, the father; Alejandro, a 7-year-old boy; and 12-year-old girl Isabel or Isabelle.
Candles lined the street outside the site of the fire as mourners remembered the family of four.
A friend of the father's said he was a former Marine who was living in the 800-square-foot apartment for the last few months.
"He was in the process of buying a house here in Sylmar," Juan Barrios said of the father.
Investigators are attempting to determine the cause of the fire and where it started.
Neighbors told NBC4 the family had been renting the metal building for about three months. The building was not equipped with working smoke detectors, according to fire investigators. But a friend of the property owner claims that, "as far as the homeowners are concerned, there were smoke detectors on the property."
The building was permitted to be used as an accessory living area and has a certificate of occupancy on file, LAFD officials told NBC4. Fire officials said they were looking into whether the property violated any building codes.
The metal building forced firefighters to adjust tactics as they battled the blaze.
"When you face a metal-clad building like this, it presents a significant challenge to our firefighters," Moore said. "If you look at some of these other homes, our firefighters will ladder the building simultaneously as they make entry. Our truck companies will cut a hole so they can ventilate and get all those super-heat gases and smoke out. In a metal-clad building, you can't do those operations."
A memorial fund has been created with Wells Fargo called the "Estrada Family Fund," No. 6076338364.