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Historic South L.A. church destroyed by fire


LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A historic church went up in flames in South Los Angeles today and two firefighters battling the blaze were temporarily trapped in the building and had to be rescued by their colleagues, with one taken to a hospital for treatment.

The fire at Crouch Memorial Church of God in Christ, completed in 1896 at 1001 E. 27th St., began in the attic about 9:30 a.m., and the flames quickly spread through the Romanesque Revival structure.

Within a short time, the roof of the building collapsed, and firefighters were ordered outside to battle the flames from the exterior and keep them from spreading to other buildings.

Two firefighters temporarily trapped in the burning building were rescued by fellow firefighters, Los Angeles fire Capt. Jamie Moore said. One of them was taken to a hospital in stable condition, while the other declined to be transported and was treated by paramedics at the scene. The second firefighter also went to the hospital, however, to be with his injured colleague.

Fire Chief Brian Cummings said he came to the scene when he heard part of the roof caved in and two firefighters may have been hurt.

“I heard the partial structural collapse at the church and that we had firefighters unaccounted for,” Cummings said. “That’s the worst thing that you can ever hear as a firefighter or a fire chief — to know that some of our own are in peril. But (despite) the unknowns that are going on there, the one constant is that we know … the firefighters will do what they need to do to make sure that we can get in there to rescue those firefighters.

“… Our firefighters take that calculated risk because when there’s lives to be saved, we’ll risk what needs to be done to do it, whether it’s a resident of Los Angeles or one of our own,” the chief said.

LAFD Capt. Laurie Stolp told reporters what happened on the second floor inside the burning church.

“This one firefighter was about 25 feet behind the other two because he was pulling hose for them,” Stolp said. “And then all of a sudden they just heard a big loud (crash) and the roof caved in, and he ended up on the first floor just surrounded by debris.”

Firefighters gained the upper hand on the flames within about 90 minutes, and remained on scene afterward dousing hot spots.

The church was once the center of Los Angeles’ prohibition movement in the early 1900s. It sits in the heart of a historic district that includes a variety of homes dating back as far as 1893.

Cummings said nobody was believed to have been inside the building when the fire broke out. The department’s arson unit was called to the scene, along with the House of Worship Task Force, which includes investigators from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.