L.A. County Fire Department

Authorities detained a young man in connection to a large  blaze that exploded in the early hours of Wednesday and tore through a housing complex under construction in East Los Angeles, The L.A. County Fire Department said.

According to some news reports, the “person of interest” detained is a minor.

Video footage from the site showed the construction project completely destroyed. Firefighting crews continued battling hot spots well into mid-morning and authorities said that streets surrounding the area were expected to be closed for most of today.

Arson investigators were looking into the cause of the greater-alarm fire that broke out at the five-story building at 1st Street and Rowan Avenue at around 1 a.m. and eventually engulfed the construction site.

The LACFD said some 150 firefighters worked to put out the fire. At about 7:30 a.m., the department reported it had made significant progress knocking the blaze down. Later, nearly 10 a.m., it said that crews continued tackling tough to access and hidden pockets of fire at the site.

A few minutes later, the department said that “despite knockdown being achieved at 9:31 am, crews continue to pour large volumes of water” into the construction site “to further assess remaining hotspots.”

In a Twitter post, the department also announced that one “male juvenile has been detained in conjunction with this incident.”

Earlier video footage from the scene showed scaffolding collapsing while firefighters fought the flame. The LACFD said no one was injured in the fire, but a one-story house behind the development suffered damage when burning scaffolding collapsed and landed on the roof. 

Four apartments over the historic former Unique Theater movie palace next to the construction site were also impacted by the fire, the LACFD said. Firefighters working with Sheriff’s deputies were able to evacuate nearby residents displaced by the fire, who were assisted by the Red Cross.

ELACC development Nuevo Amanecer

The five-story, 62 apartment complex is being developed by the East LA Community Corporation, a Boyle Heights based nonprofit developer. Named Nuevo Amanecer, the affordable housing project was expected to offer 31 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans and 28 units for low-income families (with the remaining two units for resident managers).

In a statement released in the afternoon, ELACC president and CEO Manuel Bernal said the organization is cooperating with the local authorities and the Red Cross, and that the developer is committed to rebuilding Nuevo Amanecer.

He also expressed concern for the neighborhood families affected by the fire:

“Not only does this tragedy profoundly affect our timeline to provide quality housing to veterans and families, but the families living next door were also impacted by the fire and local workers have lost their construction jobs. No one was injured, but Nuevo Amanecer was a valuable economic resource in East LA and we are overcome with grief for the loss of our neighbors’ homes and livelihoods. We are currently looking into ways to support the families as we recover together.”

In an interview last month, ELACC president and CEO Manuel Bernal said El Nuevo Amancer, which began construction in June of 2019, was expected to be completed by the end of the year and that signs with leasing information were to be posted in late September or early October.

ELACC owns and manages several housing project in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. Last month, some Boyle Heights residents protested at the site of an announced development at Mariachi Plaza, saying the project would potentially displace musicians working there and adversely add to the neighborhood’s population density.

Some Boyle Heights residents have also been critical of ELACC’s management of the historic Casa del Mexicano, by allowing a cell phone tower to be built next to the site.

This story was updated at 4:20 with ELACC statement.


Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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