Downtown L.A. Fire

Happening in DTLA photographers, Raquel Natalicchio & Jasper De Jesus first on the scene of the massive Downtown L.A. fire
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus - The scene of the Downtown fire from the 700 south block of Kohler St. The fire started at an outside pallet yard located behind this building, along the 700 south block of Ceres Ave.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus – The scene of the Downtown fire from the 700 south block of Kohler St. The fire started at an outside pallet yard located behind this building, along the 700 south block of Ceres Ave.

On July 23, 2016 at 6:47PM, Los Angeles Fire Department received an emergency call of a building structure that was reported to be on fire. It was an open pallet yard located along the south 700 block of Ceres Ave. and behind the south 700 block of Kohler St.

Firefighter, Greg Zaccaro on top of a fire truck as he douses the emerging fire. Photo by : Raquel Natalicchio
Photo by : Raquel Natalicchio – Firefighter, Greg Zaccaro on top of a fire truck as he douses the emerging fire.

After wrapping up a photo shoot along Santa Fe in the nearby Arts District, I ran into fellow HappeningInDTLA photographer, Raquel Natalicchio who was out shooting near 4th street also in the Arts District. We saw some thick black smoke quickly rising into the air just a few blocks away and we arrived to the scene of a massive fire that just began. People were running to the location and getting as close to the fire as they could in hopes of capturing it with their phones. The heat from the fires could be felt from a block away. Only after a few minutes of arriving, four to five loud explosions shook the ground and the Los Angeles Police Department quickly started clearing people out of the south 700 block of Kohler St. Luckily, Raquel had her press pass with her and after showing it to the cops, we were able to remain on scene to take photographs. The whole block was empty except for the firefighters  and a few police officers making sure no one entered the immediate area.

Photo by : Raquel Natalicchio - Firemen watch at the base of the fire truck ladder after loud explosions were felt and heard from the burning buildings.
Photo by : Raquel Natalicchio – Firemen watch at the base of the fire truck ladder after loud explosions were felt and heard from the burning buildings.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus - This was the scene just minutes after the fire started. Fire trucks were positioning themselves while firefighters were attaching water hoses to any available water sources.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus – This was the scene just minutes after the fire started. Fire trucks were positioning themselves while firefighters were attaching water hoses to any available water sources.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus - Firefighter, Greg Zaccaro battles the flames on top of a fire truck aiming the water at a nearby business that caught on fire.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus – Firefighter, Greg Zaccaro battles the flames on top of a fire truck aiming the water at a nearby business that caught on fire.

We started seeing more firefighters and fire trucks arriving on location. A team of twenty firefighters entered one of the buildings along Kohler St. after the doors had been sawed off. Half of them went through the door and the others climbed onto the roof using a long ladder that was positioned on the side of the building. Some firefighters carried chainsaws while the others carried axes. These tools are necessary to break into locked buildings that might be at risk of catching on fire.

Photo by : Raquel Natalicchio - Firefighters break into an adjacent locked bulding in order to prevent the fire from spreading while other firemen climbed to the rooftop watering it down and keeping an eye on the fire behind this building.
Photo by : Raquel Natalicchio – Firefighters break into an adjacent locked bulding in order to prevent the fire from spreading while other firemen climbed to the rooftop watering it down and keeping an eye on the fire behind this building.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus - Firefighters stand on rooftops of the nearby businesses with chainsaws and axes ready to break into any building that is in danger of catching fire.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus – Firefighters stand on rooftops of the nearby businesses with chainsaws and axes ready to break into any building that is in danger of catching fire.
Photo by : Raquel Natalicchio - A firefighter points the water hose on top of the fire truck ladder. The smoke quickly fills the air as an airplane passes by and disappears into the cloud of thick smoke.
Photo by : Raquel Natalicchio – A firefighter points the water hose on top of the fire truck ladder. The smoke quickly fills the air as an airplane passes by and disappears into the cloud of thick smoke.

After about an hour, the team of firefighters that went into the burning building evacuated and was able to rest for a little bit. Some of them were exhausted and tired due to the high heat caused by the flames and also the 90 degree weather that tied the record high for that day. Many firefighters immediately started taking off their gear and equipment to vent.

Photo by : Raquel Natalicchio - An exhausted firefighter takes a quick water break on the sidewalk across the burning building and rests for a brief moment after breaking into nearby buildings and battling the flames. Battling fires in 90 degree weather is no easy task.
Photo by : Raquel Natalicchio – An exhausted firefighter takes a quick water break on the sidewalk across the burning building and rests for a brief moment after breaking into nearby buildings and battling the flames. Battling fires in 90 degree weather is no easy task.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus - Firefighter, Taylor Rappaport (left) rushes out of a burning building and drops to his knees as he immediately takes off his gear to prevent from overheating. Firefigher, Kory Prichard (right) stands by his partner after battling the fire from the inside of the business across the street from them.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus – Firefighter, Taylor Rappaport (left) rushes out of a burning building and drops to his knees as he immediately takes off his gear to prevent from overheating. Firefigher, Kory Prichard (right) stands by his partner after battling the fire from the inside of the business across the street from them.

Firefighter, Taylor Rappaport and his partner, Kory Prichard were part of the team that entered the burning building. I asked Taylor, why he started taking off his gear and he replied.. “Our gear is designed to be fully encapsulating to keep heat from getting inside and burning us. The problem with that is is also doesn’t let any heat out also and after extended work periods you can overheat easily. Plus the temperatures inside the buildings are extremely hot which adds to the equation.”

Photo by : Jasper De Jesus - Firefighter, Tony Cresta descends down the ladder after putting out the flames of a nearby business that also caught on fire.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus – A firefighter descends down the ladder after putting out the flames of a nearby business that also caught on fire.

After the second hour, camera men and news reporters started arriving on the scene. I told Raquel, “No one will have these photos since we’re the only ones covering this fire since it started.” ABC 7 Eyewitness News reporter Leanne Suter arrived on scene and was able to get an interview with a man who owned one of the buildings that caught on fire. Ben Medansky, owner of a ceramic business says “Everything I worked so hard for is completely destroyed, most of it is clay and materials but there are a lot of valuable things in there that is destroyed.” Ben is a ceramicist artist and lost his studio during the fire. His studio was located right behind the open pallet yard where the fire initially started. Being an artist myself, I cannot begin to imagine what it must feel like to lose something so valuable and irreplaceable. It was a place where he designed, visualized and created his art. If you would like help and make a donation, a GoFundMe Page has been created to help restore Ben’s studio.

ABC 7’s Leanne asked Raquel if she could get an interview with her since we were at the location during the early stages of the fire.

Photo by : Jasper De Jesus - ABC 7 Eyewitness News reporter Leanne Suter interviews Rachel Natalicchio and was aired during the 11pm news that evening.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus – ABC 7 Eyewitness News reporter Leanne Suter interviews Rachel Natalicchio and was aired during the 11pm news that evening.

More than 180 Los Angeles Fire Department Firefighters were called to the open pallet yard fire and was considered a Major Emergency Fire which took a little over 2 hours to contain.  A total of 6 businesses were affected by the fires but only one was completely destroyed while 3 businesses sustained significant damages but not considered a complete loss.

Photo by : Jasper De Jesus - Over 180 Los Angeles Firefighters were called on scene to contain the Downtown fire.
Photo by : Jasper De Jesus – Over 180 Los Angeles Firefighters were called on scene to contain the Downtown fire.

This was the first time being so close to a fire and witnessing the process of what it takes to put out fires from beginning to end. Firefighters have to battle fires under life threatening conditions especially during the summer which is also considered to be “fire season.” The LAFD have been really busy during the past few months with these large  brush fires and everyday building fires like this one. After witnessing them in action and all they do, I would consider them as being real life heroes to the people. Much respect and appreciation goes out to The Los Angeles Fire Department and all firefighters everywhere.

 

 

Jasper De Jesus
Jasper De Jesus
Contributing Photographer |

Los Angeles based visual artist. Painter and photographer. Creating beautiful images and capturing the essence and diversity of Los Angeles. Follow me on Instagram @jasperdejesus or visit www.jasperdejesus.com

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