More than a 12 people were hurt in an early morning fire in a San Pedro motel that's now believed to have been deliberately set. Arson investigators say the fire started on the ground floor and quickly spread upward, trapping residents. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from San Pedro for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 22, 2013.
A resident jumped from the second level of a residential hotel in San Pedro early Tuesday during a suspicious fire that left at least twelve people hospitalized.
Three people were hospitalized in critical condition after the rapidly spreading fire at 1001 South Palos Verdes Street (map). About 150 firefighters responded.
"I was dead asleep, then I heard the beeping of alarms. Then I started smelling fire," said resident Maria DeAlba, who lived on the first floor. "Two people jumped from the top floor. You could see glass coming down, and when they hit down there, all the blood on the floor."
The fire at the Palos Verdes Inn started at about 3:30 a.m. Firefighters were returning from another emergency response when they noticed the fire.
"They came across this building before any 911 call was ever made," said LAFD Capt. Jamie Moore. "They encountered a police officer who was trying to get people to escape from this building."
Moore said the spread very quickly and burned "very hot." The approximately 30 residents, he said, were quickly overcome by the amount of heat being produced.
The officer was treated for smoke inhalation. The victims in critical condition suffered severe smoke inhalation and severe burns. A third individual suffered a fractured leg after jumping from the second level.
Arson investigators were at the location early Tuesday, as were police robbery-homicide detectives. A cause was not immediately determined, but investigators are attempting to determine whether accelerants were used.
"This fire took off so quickly, with such a great intensity that it's believed there was some type of accelerant," said LA police Detective Gus Villanueva.
Investigators said the fire started on the ground floor at the back of the building, then spreading upward.
Residents who were not hospitalized will be allowed to retrieve items inside the building later Tuesday morning.
A former resident of the hotel, Justin Boyd, who said he had lived in the room where the fire started, reported that drug use was common at the Palos Verdes Inn. Boyd said residents paid $25 per night or $530 per month.
The victims were initially sheltered in a city bus and interviewed by Red Cross officials, who said the 26 people left homeless by the fire were being provided housing nearby.
NBC4's Toni Guinyard and Gordon Tokumatsu contributed to this report.
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