Two men were being sought as potential witnesses to that massive downtown fire that one week ago destroyed part of a 7-story apartment complex under construction.
The Los Angeles Fire Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives today released videos of each man walking near the scene of the fire. Both were sought as potential witnesses and “are not considered suspects or persons of interest,” the LAFD said in a statement.
One man was actually grabbed by firefighters as he tried to enter the property during the firefight, a confrontation captured on video by a freelance TV camera person, authorities said.
We asked both the LAFD and the ATF if this search for witnesses means that authorities, investigating the blaze since Wednesday with the help of a federal National Response Team, are leaning toward concluding that the blaze was suspicious in origin.
Representatives of both agencies said it's still too early to tell.
“This is part of a wide-ranging investigation to explore every avenue,” said LAFD spokesman Peter Sanders.
“We don't have a conclusion at this time,” said, ATF spokesman Thomas Mangan. “We're still on the scene.”
We asked him why the man seen in the first video, below, wasn't detained by firefighters at the scene of Monday morning's fire at 900 W. Temple St.
“They grabbed him to get him out of there for his safety,” Mangan said. “He wasn't detained. He went on his way. We just want to talk to him to see what he might have seen.”
While that guy was apparently trying to get into the fire scene as firefighters went into defensive battle mode, the other potential witnesses was captured by a loading-dock security camera walking down Fremont Street before the nearby blaze even started, the ATF representative said.
The 1:20 a.m. fire on Dec. 8 erupted across the street from LAFD's Fire Station 3, with firefighters opening their door to see the flames that morning. It eventually drew one-fourth, 250 in all, of the city's on-duty firefighting army, authorities said.
The spectacular blaze that melted a freeway sign and closed portions of the adjacent 110 and 101 freeways downtown, destroyed the newest wing of the Da Vinci apartment complex.
Anyone with information the whereabouts of the two men was asked to call investigators at 213-893-9850.
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