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Construction site fire erupts in massive blaze

People in Southern California probably heard about the huge fire that engulfed a large portion of downtown Los Angeles in smoke earlier this month. The blaze, which apparently started at the site of a seven story apartment building which was under construction, was so serious that it took approximately 250 firefighters to assist in controlling it. The inferno also damaged nearby high rise buildings and caused police to have to shut down adjacent freeways. Luckily, thanks to some heroic work by the firefighters at the scene, the fire was contained from spreading even further.

The construction site, which consisted primarily of five floors of wood framing, was a total loss to the developers. In total, the construction work which had gone into creating 1.3 million square feet of space, was almost completely destroyed. It is unclear what the developers, architects and construction companies plan to do with the space in the wake of this massive tragedy. Cleanup and mitigation will surely take many weeks, so even if they choose to rebuild, they have a long road ahead of them and the financial losses could be quite significant.

Preliminary reports suggest that it was not a construction accident that set the blaze, and that the conflagration may have been started deliberately. Police and firefighters were also investigating a smaller fire at a different construction site across town on the same night. The Fire is considered suspicious due to the speed of its spread and the intensity with which it burned, even though recent rains had dampened the area.

This fire raises some interesting construction law issues for all parties involved. Hopefully, the tremendous loss of property will be recoverable, but many things remain up in the air, especially if law enforcement determines the cause was arson and a full-scale investigation becomes necessary.

Source: Reuters "Los Angeles freeways jammed after huge construction site fire," Steve Gorman, Dec. 8, 2014

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