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Arson investigators with the Los Angeles Fire Department are looking into the fifth blaze that has erupted in a building in the 800 block of South La Brea Avenue, the latest of which occurred Tuesday morning. Officials believe the latest fire is connected with four previous incidents that have occurred since Oct. 17.
LAFD detective Tim Crass said the fires were arson, but could not provide many details because of the ongoing investigation. The fire Tuesday caused heavy damage to the southern portion of the four-unit, two-story building at 816 N. La Brea Ave. Crass said the fire started inside a unit that was previously occupied by L & A Printing, and was either caused by someone who entered the building or smashed a window and threw something inside that started the fire. A damage estimate was not available.
LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey said the incident on Tuesday was reported around 7:50 a.m. by someone driving on La Brea Avenue. Humphrey said approximately 40 firefighters extinguished the fire in seven minutes, and it was contained to the one unit. No injuries were reported, Humphrey added. The fire closed northbound lanes of La Brea Avenue for roughly 30 minutes during the busy morning rush hour.
Crass said he did not know why the building was targeted, and officials are asking the public for any information that may lead to a suspect. Only one business – the La Brea Collective medical marijuana dispensary — is currently open for business in the building. Fires have erupted in all of the other units.
Daniel Sosa, the owner of the La Brea Collective, said none of the fires has caused any major damage to his business, but added that he is scared. He said he has no idea why the building is being targeted, and added that arson investigators instructed him not to discuss the details of the case.
“It is very scary. Everybody in the whole neighborhood is concerned,” Sosa said. “I have hired a security guard to be here at night, and he has been here from midnight to seven in the morning, but this one happened between seven and eight in the morning, so I’m not sure what I can do. I’m thinking about having him stay here until eleven-thirty when my staff comes in.”
Sosa said he reopened the collective on Tuesday evening, and plans to remain open. The dispensary is legal under the city’s medical marijuana ordinance because it was opened prior to the 2007 moratorium on dispensaries. Sosa added that the printing company next door closed several months ago, and a furniture company that was in another unit left two to three months ago. The single upstairs unit has been vacant for several years. He would not divulge who owns the building.
“These are all attacks on the building, and even though it didn’t cause any damage to my business, we all feel like we are the victims,” Sosa added. “I don’t know how the fires are being started, but every time, I have to replace my doors because the fire department goes through them. I just hope the arson investigators figure out what is going on.”
Other business owners in the local community have also expressed concern, including Angelo Vacco, who owns the Little Bar and Massimo’s Mud Spot at the corner of 8th Street and La Brea Avenue.
“Part of it is scary, and part of it is ridiculous. It’s gotten to the point where we go, ‘hey, the building is on fire again’,” Vacco said. “La Brea is such a busy street with so many people around, but nobody sees anything. I don’t know what is going on there.”
Crass said the fires have all occurred during the early morning hours. He added that anyone with information should contact LAFD arson investigators at (213)485-6095.
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