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Deadly Pasadena explosion occurred downstairs, residents say

November 1, 2012 | 11:45 am

Residents of a Pasadena home where an explosion killed two people and critically injured another Thursday say the incident occurred in a downstairs apartment and that they needed to take extreme measures to escape the building.

Two residents, who declined to give their last names, said the explosion came from a downstairs apartment of a man who was not on the premises when the explosion occurred at 2:15 a.m., according to the Pasadena Sun. The man was known to keep a cluttered apartment, according to the two residents.

Leo, 70, who lived in the upper floor of the building, said he heard the explosion but thought it was someone falling in the corridor. Then he heard the smoke alarm.

“I open the door, and with the smoke I saw out there, and I slammed the door back closed,” he said.

He then removed the air-conditioning unit from his window and traversed the sloping roof of the property to get out.

Bill, another resident, said he slid down the interior staircase of the building to avoid smoke and escape the building.

Firefighters arrived at the home at 1385 El Sereno Ave. near Washington Boulevard to find heavy smoke and fire, according to Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.

It took firefighters about 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze, she said. Two males were found to be deceased, and a third was rushed to a hospital and then to Grossman Burn Center in West Hills with critical injuries.

Sixteen other residents were taken to the Jackie Robinson Center to be sheltered and were later allowed to return to the home briefly to pick up their medications and personal possessions, Derderian said.

Pasadena police cordoned off the building and declared it a crime scene after the residents were evacuated. Police later arrived at the Jackie Robinson Center to interview some of those who had been displaced.

Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said Thursday morning that police were involved as a "precautionary measure."

"We're not sure if there is anything suspicious associated with the incident," Sanchez said. "Our officers are out there as liaisons at this point."

One of the residents, who declined to give his name, said that around the time of the explosion, “I heard some rumbling, something that sounded like a brawl.”

He said the two residents who died plus the one in critical condition are “three real nice people who would give you the shirt off their backs.”

Derderian said the cause of the explosion and fire was still under investigation, and city officials were working to determine if the home was licensed as a board-and-care facility. A Los Angeles County coroner's spokesman said Thursday morning that the agency has not yet determined the identities of the victims.

Alex Rose, a disaster action team coordinator for the Red Cross, said the agency is working on finding a more permanent shelter for the men displaced by the incident.


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-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News

Twitter: @JoePiasecki