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Local News in Brief : Arson Suspected in Office Building Fire

November 23, 1987

Arson investigators were attempting to determine the cause of a Sunday afternoon fire that damaged one floor of a Sherman Oaks office building, forced the evacuation of a nearby restaurant and closed Ventura Boulevard for more than an hour, Los Angeles Fire Department officials said.

No one was injured in the 4:30 p.m. fire on the third floor of the four-story building at 14900 Ventura Blvd. The fire was extinguished in about 15 minutes and caused about $40,000 damage, fire officials said.

Employees and customers at the L'Express Restaurant, 14910 Ventura Blvd., were forced to flee when smoke began billowing out of the office building. Eleven fire companies responded to the fire and officials listed the cause as suspicious. Officials said the building was supposed to be closed and empty Sunday afternoon.

"There is no reason for a fire to break out in a building that's supposed to be empty" over the weekend, said Battalion Chief Tom Stires. The fire started in the hallway and damaged two offices, he said.

While firefighters were fighting the blaze, Los Angeles police arrested a United Press International photographer for allegedly interfering with firefighters by blocking one of the doors to the building. A police spokesman said Thom Elder was released without being booked after being taken to the Van Nuys Division.

The case will be referred to the city attorney's office for a decision on whether a charge will be filed, the spokesman said. When Elder, in handcuffs, was being placed into a squad car at the scene, he denied interfering with the firefighters.

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