LOS ANGELES (AP) — Firefighters on Tuesday found four bodies as they searched an abandoned office building the day after a major fire near downtown Los Angeles, authorities said, raising the death toll to five people.
One man had already been declared dead at the scene while the blaze was burning Monday night.
Two men and two women were found Tuesday afternoon as authorities searched the second floor of the burned-out building with a team of dogs.
All five victims appeared to be homeless, the Fire Department said.
Police took a suspected arsonist into custody who had been in the building when the fire broke out, authorities said.
That man and one other person were taken to hospitals with injuries not considered serious.
Firefighters rescued three people.
It took nearly 150 firefighters more than two hours to extinguish the fire in the green, two-story building that once was home to an acupuncture clinic, surrounded by strip malls and an apartment building in the Westlake District of Los Angeles.
The area is on the edge of Koreatown, and the signs on the building and many surrounding businesses are in Korean.
The building was officially vacant, but neighbors say they saw homeless people coming and going from it frequently, especially at night.
The structure appeared to be singed and some of its windows were blown out, but it did not appear badly burned from the outside.
During the blaze, firefighters had to take on a defensive stance and fight the fire from a distance because it was too dangerous to get close to an abandoned building like this one with a fire burning so strongly.
“People do tend to live in them, and they tear them up,” fire Capt. Daniel Curry said. “Floors are no longer intact, walls are no longer there.”
The fire chief was set to talk about the deaths at a news conference later Tuesday.
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