AUTHORITIES investigating a massive fire that engulfed an entire apartment building complex under construction in downtown Los Angeles are seeking two men captured on video near the scene around the time the blaze started.
The second man, caught on a freelance news video, was seen lurking around the site and pushed away by firefighters.
A task force led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) national response team is seeking to identify the men seen on the footage, but neither are considered a suspect or person of interest, according to the ATF.
“It is purely someone we are seeking to interview as an investigative lead,” said Thomas Mangan, a spokesman for the agency.
On the morning of Dec. 8, a massive blaze with an unknown cause destroyed one of the Da Vinci apartments’ two buildings on the 900 block of West Temple Street, near the intersection of the 101 and 110 freeways, temporarily shutting them down.
Video surveillance released by fire officials shows one of the men walking beside a fence outside of the burning property, then hanging off of the fence before two firefighters pull him away and restrain him. The man remains unidentified, but was wearing a baseball cap, dark leather jacket, and dark jeans.
The other man, wearing a San Diego Chargers football jersey and dark pants, was seen on footage captured by a video security camera from a building opposite the Da Vinci property.
The ATF’s national response team, which consists of more than 20 fire investigators and other specialists, spent the weekend digging through the damage and debris, interviewing witnesses, and looking through surveillance footage. They are also continuing to check nearby buildings for more security cameras that might have captured the start of the fire.
Officials said that because of the enormous size of the burn site, it could be weeks or even months before a final conclusion could be made about how the fire started, and whether it was intentional.
Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said the sheer “amount of fire” that consumed the seven-story wooden structure made it suspicious. Firefighters at a station just yards from the building reported that the structure was “heavily involved in fire.”
“That’s unusual, to have that much fire all at the same time,” Terrazas said.
A team of the LAFD’s arson task force and the Los Angeles Police Department’s criminal conspiracy are working together as part of the investigation.
Anyone with information that may assist in identifying these individuals is urged to contact the LAFD Arson Section directly at (213) 893-9850.
(With reports from The Los Angeles Times, ABC7)
(LA Midweek December 17-19, 2014 Sec. A pg.5)