Arson ruled out in deadly fire at Hollywood home

AP News
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Posted: Feb 24, 2011 8:39 PM
Arson ruled out in deadly fire at Hollywood home

Investigators ruled out arson as the cause of a blaze that fatally injured a veteran firefighter at a Hollywood Hills mansion where a reality TV show was scheduled to film, a homicide detective said Thursday.

Authorities determined the Feb. 16 blaze was not deliberately set, said police Capt. Kevin McClure. But investigators have not found the cause of the blaze or whether any crime was committed.

A notice left at neighbors' homes said the mansion was to be used to film portions of the reality TV show "Germany's Next Top Model" from Feb. 18 to April 22.

The door tag, first cited by KCBS last week, said 15 contestants and a nanny initially would stay at the home, but contestants would gradually be eliminated. Shooting was planned mainly inside the home.

The show is produced by Tresor Entertainment U.S. LLC, with model Heidi Klum an executive producer. An e-mail message seeking comment sent to Klum's publicist SaraJane Lieb was not immediately returned.

Fire Department and city Building and Safety officials requested police help in the investigation to have a fresh look at the circumstances.

Firefighter Glenn Allen, 61, suffered fatal injuries when a ceiling collapsed as dozens of firefighters who battled the blaze at the three-story, 12,500-square-foot home.

The fire, which caused an estimated $250,000 in damage, apparently started in a fireplace but climbed into the attic and burned through a plastic sprinkler pipe, filling the space with water, fire officials have said.

A huge chunk of the ceiling supported by wooden beams collapsed and trapped Allen underneath. He died two days later at a hospital.

Five other firefighters were treated for lesser injuries.

Investigators will try to determine if and when the sprinkler system was inspected, Fire Department spokesman Cecil Manresa said.

Investigators also will try to discover whether the home's construction and design played any role in the incident, said David Lara, spokesman for the Department of Building and Safety.

"Basically, everything from how the fire started and all the materials and so on," will be examined, Lara said.

Construction permits recently had been taken out for the home, Lara said, but he did not immediately know the details. The homeowners had been living there for about a week and escaped without injury before the ceiling collapsed.

Allen spent 38 years on the job. He would have been eligible for retirement this year. His daughter gave birth to his first grandson a day after he died.

A candlelight vigil honoring Allen was scheduled Thursday night at Fire Station 78 in Studio City. His funeral was scheduled for Friday at the downtown Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Allen was the first Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter to be killed in the line of duty since March 2008, when Brent Lovrien was killed in an explosion near Los Angeles International Airport as he investigated an earlier blast that blew manhole covers into the air.