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Los Angeles firefighter dies of injuries

Glenn Allen, a veteran of more than 36 years with the LAFD, was to have retired in less than two years.

February 19, 2011|By Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times
  • Fire Chief Millage Peaks, left, alongside Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said the ceiling failure was a surprise.
Fire Chief Millage Peaks, left, alongside Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)

A Los Angeles firefighter died Friday from injuries he sustained when a ceiling collapsed on him in a house fire late Wednesday night in the Hollywood Hills.

FOR THE RECORD: An article in the Feb. 19 LATExtra section about the death of Los Angeles Firefighter Glenn Allen said that Allen's funeral was tentatively planned for March 4. According to the Fire Department, his funeral is scheduled for Feb. 25 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.

"I don't think any of us as firefighters would expect such a catastrophic failure of ceiling," city Fire Chief Millage Peaks said after announcing the death of Glenn Allen, 61, an L.A. firefighter for more than 36 years.

Allen, who was less than two years from retirement, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His first grandchild is expected to be born Saturday.

When Allen and dozens of other firefighters arrived at the scene, the fire was blazing across the attic of a house in the 1500 block of North Viewsite Drive.

Running through the attic were plastic pipes for fire sprinklers. The fire melted the pipes, flooding the attic and filling the insulation with water, Peaks said. The weight of the insulation appears to have led a large section of the ceiling to collapse, injuring Allen and five other firefighters.

One of the firefighters was still hospitalized Friday with a broken ankle, but the others had been treated and released, Peaks said.

When the ceiling collapsed, Allen was covered with debris. Rescuers used a chainsaw to reach him. When they found him, he was not breathing and his heart had stopped.

The newly built three-story house was 12,500 square feet, according to Peaks. The Fire Department was continuing to investigate the cause of the blaze on Friday. But officials said it seemed to have started around a fireplace, then raced up the walls to the attic and spread. A couple who had been sleeping upstairs escaped without injury.

"It was just a tough, tough battle," Peaks said.

David Lara, a spokesman for the city's Building and Safety Department, said investigators hoped to have preliminary findings next week on whether design and construction issues might have had anything to do with the ceiling collapse.

Allen's funeral is tentatively planned for March 4 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A., Peaks said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ordered city flags lowered to half-staff in Allen's honor. In a written statement, he called Allen "a fearlessly committed firefighter who dedicated 36 years of his life to protecting the people of Los Angeles."

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