Some 300 firefighters responded to the high-rise fire at Wilshire Boulevard and Barrington Avenue, performing daring air and ground rescues
Photos by Gunnar J. Kuepper

Fire-extinguishing sprinkler systems may soon become mandatory for all Los Angeles high-rise apartment buildings in reaction to last week’s terrifying blaze at Barrington Plaza, which lacked a sprinkler system despite a similar fire in 2013.

One man died and at least seven others suffered smoke inhalation in the Jan. 29 fire at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Barrington Avenue, with firefighters making dramatic rescues of residents fleeing to the roof and even scaling the exterior of the 25-story building. The fire appeared to start on the sixth floor, and investigators are calling its origin “suspicious.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin said Barrington Plaza is one of 55 residential high-rises built between 1943 and 1974 that are exempt from the city’s sprinkler system requirements — a loophole he and two other council members are pushing the city to close. State law defines high-rises as being 75 feet or taller.

“This is about public safety, pure and simple,” reads a statement by Bonin. “It is about the safety of tenants and the safety of firefighters, who face significantly greater risk responding to a fire in a high rise. And it is about the safety of everyone in Los Angeles, because when 300 hundred firefighters are needed to combat a fire in a high-rise, resources are sucked out of other neighborhoods.”

— Gary Walker