Hermosa Beach

Man Arrested After Raging Fire Destroys 3-Story Home Under Construction on the Hermosa Beach Strand

Six people couldn't return to their homes and found shelter with neighbors.

Editor's note: The original suspect was released without charges. Read the latest update here.

A man was arrested after being questioned by arson investigators following a raging fire on the Hermosa Beach Strand that gutted a home under construction and damaged four other homes nearby.

Neighbors awoke at 2 a.m. to the 150-foot tall flames swallowing a home under construction in the 800 block of The Strand, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

"It was crazy," Adam Wagenbrenner said. "It was fully engulfed in flames. Itw as pretty scary. I grabbed my son, grabbed the dog and got out of the house."

About 75 firefighters responded to get a handle on the blaze that quickly began to burn four homes nearby. Homes in the beach community are typically built very closely together, making it easier for the flames to spread.

Video from witnesses showed neighbors screaming for people to evacuate and remove children from the home directly next to the growing blaze.

"The flames -- it was like daylight from the inside of the next house," Tom Montell said, who was awoken by the fire. 

Six people were forced to flee and find shelter with neighbors after the fire, Hermosa Beach police said. 

A firefighter was hurt while battling the fire, and was treated at the hospital for a minor injury, Los Angeles County Fire Department Public Information Officer Brian Stevens said.

Michael Christopher Kotva, 27, was arrested on suspicion of arson, Hermosa Beach police said.

A barrier was to be placed from the 800 to the 900 block on the Strand after the destructive fire damaged the three-story home so badly, fire officials feared it may collapse. The barrier would also block access to the alley behind the home.

Hermosa Avenue was temporarily closed, but later reopened. 

"Our hearts go out to the families whose homes were damaged, and our team will be working with them to determine the safety of their homes. City staff will also be working with the contractor at the home construction site to determine what is needed to secure that site," said Hermosa Beach Mayor Stacey Armato.

Anyone with information on the fire or the suspect was asked to contact arson investigator Randy Brown at 323-855-0070 or randyd.brown@fire.lacounty.gov.

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