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Pasadena house fire kills two men, injures another

Flames and heavy smoke engulfed the building after an apparent explosion. Sixteen residents escaped from the home that housed elderly tenants in small rooms.

November 02, 2012|By Joe Piasecki, Los Angeles Times
  • Pasadena firefighters sift through the debris after a fire killed two and destroyed a home that housed nearly two-dozen men. The boarding house was on El Sereno Avenue.
Pasadena firefighters sift through the debris after a fire killed two and… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)

Two men died and another was seriously burned early Thursday when a fire raced through a two-story Pasadena home where elderly residents rented rooms.

Flames and heavy smoke quickly engulfed the building following an apparent explosion that was reported about 2:15 a.m. at the home in the 1300 block of El Sereno Avenue, officials said. The fire and thick smoke sent 16 residents scrambling for safety.

Neighbor Felix Palumbo said he heard two loud bangs, resembling fireworks, and went out onto the street to see the flames tearing through the front of the structure. "It happened fast," he said.

Firefighters battled the blaze for 20 minutes. A search of the home led to the discovery of the two men dead inside, said Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.

The names of the victims have not been released. The injured man was identified as Perry Simons, who remains hospitalized in serious but stable condition, said Cathy Butter, spokeswoman for the Grossman Burn Center in West Hills.

After the blaze was knocked down, police cordoned off the building and declared the area a crime scene. Detectives later arrived to interview residents.

Two residents told The Times that the blaze and explosion appeared to come from the first-floor room of a man who had left shortly before the fire started. The man had kept a cluttered apartment that a property supervisor had ordered to be cleaned, according to the residents.

One 70-year-old resident said he heard an explosion and opened his door to see thick smoke.

"I slammed the door back closed," he said, adding that he removed the air-conditioning unit from his window and escaped across the sloping roof of the building.

Several residents said they paid monthly rents of $425 to $550 for small rooms.

Officials were still working late Thursday to determine whether the home was in compliance with city codes, said city spokesman William Boyer.

Property records show the owner of the home, Jeanette Broussard of Altadena, has several properties in Pasadena and Los Angeles.

Broussard sued the city in 2010 after officials ordered her to shut down a boarding home on the 600 block of Del Monte Street, according to court documents. The case was ultimately dismissed.

City officials had charged Broussard with code enforcement violations after the home caught fire on May 29, 2009, resulting in the death of one tenant. Those charges were dropped after Broussard agreed to comply with city regulations, Boyer said.

Broussard could not be reached for comment.

Times staff writers Sam Quinones and Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report.

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