Arson suspect remanded in custody following massive fire damage to building in Westlake County

Westlake, Los Angeles (KABC) — A man suspected of arson was taken into custody Thursday afternoon after a massive and intense fire broke out at an apartment building in the Westlake District.

The fire engulfed the building at 2800 W 7th Street around 5:30 p.m., prompting a major fire department response.

AIR7 HD was over the scene, catching dozens of firefighters forming a line to tackle the inferno head-on as its intensity increased.

“The reason we’ve been up there so long is because we always have to consider the inmates that are still there,” LAFD Deputy Chief Dean Zipperman said. “We’ve had firefighters working indoors, and every time we have firefighters indoors, we’re going to maintain that attitude on the roof and ventilate the building.”

Police called firefighters to the building after a tense encounter with a 45-year-old man allegedly accused of assault.

“[We identified] the suspect as the victim’s brother,” said LAPD Commander Aaron Ponce. “He was under duress, was in and out of her apartment, broke into her apartment.”

The officers then went to the woman’s apartment on the second floor to conduct further investigations.

“The door is barricaded with a couch and then when officers tried to help burp they saw him armed with a knife,” Ponce said.

This led to a prolonged confrontation with the police. Eyewitt News received video showing the man walking back and forth between two balconies. According to Ponce, the suspect once threw pieces of furniture, clothing and even burning trash at police.

The suspect eventually jumped off the balcony.

“The man jumped out the window and the police started chasing him on the roof and stuff and caught him,” a witness said.

The suspect was quickly arrested and now faces a number of charges. Officials evacuated 10 people from eight apartments on the top floor and five shops on the first floor.

It took more than 100 firefighters 53 minutes to put out the blaze, but the building’s second floor is considered a total loss.

The income tax company owner told ABC7 he lost everything.

“It’s totally gone… everything’s gone,” said Jorge Peralta.

Other residents are now homeless.

“It was the first place I lived alone, like I made a life for myself. That’s gone. That’s gone now,” said resident Caroline Oswalt. “I don’t have a home anymore.”

The incident is being further investigated.

Copyright © 2023 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. Arson suspect remanded in custody following massive fire damage to building in Westlake County

Laura Coffey

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