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Arson arrests in Westlake apartment deaths


LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Authorities today planned to announce arrests in connection with a 1993 fire at a Westlake apartment building that killed 10 people, including seven children.

Details of the arrests were expected to be released by Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck at a news conference in police headquarters later this morning.

Three of the suspects reportedly are tied to a notorious gang, and allegedly were angry because the apartment manager had ordered them to take their drug dealing elsewhere, sources told the Los Angeles Times.

The arrests capped years of investigations into what is considered one of the worst arson fires in Los Angeles history.

More than 100 residents were displaced, and more than 40 were injured.

The seven children who died ranged in age from 15 months to 11 years. Two of the women who died were pregnant.

In 1993, the 69-unit building at 330 S. Burlington Ave. was a way station for immigrants, some of whom lived a dozen or more to an apartment to stretch their incomes from low-wage jobs. The fire’s rapid spread was aided by the crowded conditions, with personal belongings and furniture crammed into small spaces, fire officials said at the time.

After two suspicious fires on the premises the previous month, inspectors had noted that fire doors were propped open and alarms were not functioning properly.

They required the owner to conduct fire patrols every half-hour. But the patrols never happened, and the fire doors were still open during the deadly blaze. The tragedy prompted widespread calls for reform in city fire inspections.