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Officials probe structural issues in home where L.A. firefighter killed

February 21, 2011 |  7:47 am


Officials are looking into whether the design or construction of a Hollywood Hills home had anything to do with a ceiling collapse that killed a Los Angeles firefighter.

David Lara, a spokesman for the city's Building and Safety Department, said investigators hope to have preliminary findings next week on any structural issues related to the ceiling collapse.

"I don't think any of us as firefighters would expect such a catastrophic failure of ceiling," city Fire Chief Millage Peaks said after announcing the death of Glenn Allen, 61, a firefighter for more than 36 years.

Officials said it's unclear whether there were any structural problems at the home.

Allen, who was less than two years from retirement, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

When Allen and dozens of other firefighters arrived at the scene, the fire was blazing across the attic of a house in the 1500 block of North Viewsite Drive.

Running through the attic were plastic pipes for fire sprinklers. The fire melted the pipes, flooding the attic and filling the insulation with water, Peaks said. The weight of the insulation appears to have caused a large section of the ceiling to collapse, injuring Allen and five other firefighters, officials said.

One of the firefighters was still hospitalized Friday with a broken ankle, but the others had been treated and released, Peaks said.

When the ceiling collapsed, Allen was covered with debris. Rescuers used a chainsaw to reach him. When they found him, he was not breathing and his heart had stopped.

The newly built three-story house was 12,500 square feet, according to Peaks. The Fire Department was continuing to investigate the cause of the blaze on Friday. But officials said it seemed to have started around a fireplace, then raced up the walls to the attic and spread. A couple who had been sleeping upstairs escaped without injury.

"It was just a tough, tough battle," Peaks said.


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Photo: Officials examine the aftermath of the fire. Ccredit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times