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3 Hospital Floors Damaged in Fire

Patients and staff safely evacuate as unoccupied levels of the Hollywood facility burn.

July 23, 2003|Olga R. Rodriguez and Julie Tamaki | Times Staff Writers

Fire investigators were searching for the cause of a fire that scorched three unoccupied floors of the Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Hollywood on Tuesday afternoon and prompted the temporary evacuation of a dozen emergency-room patients and roughly 100 staff members, according to hospital officials and the Los Angeles Fire Department.

No injuries were reported, but 12 emergency-room patients on gurneys and beds were rolled to a parking lot across the street, some with IV lines attached to their arms. One of those patients, who was in critical condition, was taken by ambulance to nearby Kaiser Sunset Medical Center, according to Judith Maas, a hospital administrator.

The fire began about 3:30 p.m. in a vacant part of the 1932-vintage building, sending flames and dark smoke billowing out of several shattered windows. The blaze at 1300 N. Vermont Ave. appears to have started on the fourth floor and damaged the floors above and below, Fire Department officials said. Those floors were used for storage, officials said.

People were evacuated when smoke seeped into the emergency room, which is separated from the section that burned by a fire wall.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze within half an hour, and patients began returning to the building about an hour and half later.

"I'm happy to say that no one was hurt or even much bothered by this," said David Langness of Tenet Hospitals, which owns the facility. "Our staff responded really well."

Hospital Chief Executive Albert Greene said the evacuation went smoothly because "we have disaster training on a monthly basis."

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Fire Capt. Rick Godinez said that arson investigators are routinely called to examine fires in "significant buildings," and that there was not yet any indication that the fire had been set.

Initial reports of the blaze incited panic among relatives of patients.

"I was very scared," said Stacy Palacio, 20, whose 2-week-old daughter is a patient on the third floor of another wing. "Me and my sister jumped in the car and just drove here."

Hospital officials said Palacio's child was safe.

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Times staff writers Jose Cardenas and Monte Morin contributed to this report.

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