A fire that raged early Thursday morning at a townhouse complex under construction and spread to a nearby residential building is being investigated as arson.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The Los Angeles Fire Department was called at 3:37 a.m. about the fire at 12315 Gorham Avenue and dispatched 160 firefighters to the site, said Matt Spence, a department spokesman.
Upon further investigation, the LAFD said it believed the fire was intentionally set. Arson investigators are asking for the public's help with information in finding whoever is responsible.
"Kinda freaky at 3:45 in the morning," said J.P. Elliot, one of about 100 people forced to evacuate an apartment complex that shared an alley behind the construction site.
Chris Helin says he and his wife grabbed their daughter and ran.
"We went down to make sure embers didn't come our way, they were everywhere. I'd never seen a firestorm like that before," Helin said.
"I jumped up, grabbed my robe, ran to the hall, and our entire porch, which is nothing but sliding glass windows, was on fire," neighbor Ann Shapiro said.
"We managed to just get to our front door before the power went off, and that's when I started getting really scared," neighbor Robin England said.
An LAPD officer on scene said arson investigators could smell an accelerant, possibly gasoline, as they surveyed the area once the fire had calmed down.
The fire destroyed five townhomes that were under construction. The flames also damaged several units in the nearby apartment complex, as well as several cars in the alley.
"We woke up and saw an entire wall of yellow flames," said Greg Muier who was forced out of his home. "Now just hoping our apartment is alright."
"I woke up and opened the windows and there's this bonfire," said neighbor Guia Ferguson, who lives about a block away. "Enormous! Totally on fire!"
LAFD is asking anyone with information to contact its Arson Counterterrorism Section at 213-893-9800.