6 firefighters hurt in ceiling collapse at Los Angeles fire

A veteran firefighter is in grave condition at a hospital; the fire had burned through a sprinkler line and filled the attic with water

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — A firefighter was battling for his life Thursday after a ceiling collapsed at a burning Hollywood Hills home, injuring him and five others.

The firefighter, a veteran in his last year on the job, was hospitalized in grave condition. He had no heartbeat and was not breathing when he was cut free of the wreckage, but rescuers managed to restore his pulse, Capt. Tina Haro said.

"We're hoping and praying and waiting to see, but he is fighting for his life," she said.

The firefighter has been with the department for 38 years, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement.

"Let us never forget the men and women who selflessly put their lives at risk to protect our families, our homes, and our neighborhoods," Villaraigosa said.

City and county firefighters were called to a 6,000-square-foot home shortly before 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, Haro said.

A couple in the three-story home on Viewsite Drive smelled smoke and ran outside before firefighters arrived.

The fire apparently started in a fireplace but spread to the walls and attic, making the flames difficult to douse, Haro said.

"We kind of chased the fire around for a while, trying to find it," she said.

Unbeknownst to firefighters, the fire had burned through sprinkler pipes in the attic and filled the space with water, Haro said.

The weight collapsed a drop ceiling held in place by 2-by-4-inch wood struts, Haro said.

"The ceiling came down in huge piece," striking two county and four city firefighters, she said.

The veteran firefighter was buried.

"Our rapid intervention teams came in and they could see his turnout coat under the rubble," Haro said.

Using chain saws, they cut up the ceiling and pulled him free, then used cardiopulmonary resuscitation to revive him, the captain said.

The firefighter, whose name was not released, was eligible to retire this year, Haro said.

Three other city firefighters were in fair condition, one with a broken ankle and two with back pain, she said.

Two county firefighters were treated for minor injuries, she said.

More than 80 firefighters extinguished the fire in about 90 minutes. There was no immediate estimate of the damage, Haro said.

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