Los Angeles code enforcement officials are investigating whether a Hollywood building where a fire broke out Thursday night that killed one and injured two has been approved for use as recording studios.
Records from the city’s Department of Construction and Safety show that a “building or property converted to another use” complaint was filed Friday and is pending planning.
Jeff Napier, chief inspector and spokesman for the department, told The Times that the complaint was filed by the Los Angeles Fire Department after Thursday’s blaze.
Fire crews responded to a call at the two-story building in the 6600 block of West Lexington Avenue around 5:40 p.m., according to the LAFD. It took nearly an hour for nearly 80 firefighters to extinguish the blaze.
An unidentified man was found dead on the first floor of the building, officials said. The fire started on the first floor and spread to parts of the second floor, Los Angeles Fire Captain Erik Scott said.
Two people who escaped the blaze were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation but refused to be taken to hospital, authorities said.
Among those who escaped was Aimee Osbourne, 38, one of the daughters of rocker Ozzy Osbourne.
She and her producer were working in the building when the fire broke out and were “the lucky two who made it out alive,” Sharon Osbourne, her mother, said on Instagram. The producer was not identified in the message.
“It is absolutely heartbreaking that someone lost their life today in this fire and we send our prayers to this person and their family,” Osbourne wrote.
Inspectors will check to see if the owner has obtained the proper permits and if the building has been approved for use as recording studios, Napier said.
Building records also show two closed complaints for the property.
The first, filed on October 18, 2017, concerned ongoing construction without a permit or inspection. Another complaint for the building or property converted to another use was filed on October 4, 2018.
The earlier complaints relate to the property being used as an unlicensed inn at the time, Napier said. The owner eventually complied with city orders and gutted the building, returning it to its use as a warehouse, he said.
A Yelp listing at the address of the fire called it the Time Zone Hostel Hollywood. The company’s website appears to have been taken down.
Reviewers on Yelp, meanwhile, complained about issues like bedbugs, noise, and dirt. Further information on the three code complaints was not available Friday.
Los Angeles firefighters continue to investigate the cause of the fire.
Authorities did not release the name of the deceased, but people who worked in the building identified him as 26-year-old Nathan Avery Edwards. Edwards recorded, produced and mixed music under the name Avery Drift, according to his friend Jonathan Wellman, who rented recording space down the hall in the same building.
“A talented young artist, producer, engineer,” Wellman said in an interview with The Times on Friday morning. “He was a very promising talent.”
It’s unclear exactly where the fire started, but Wellman said it appeared the flames were coming from the ceiling as he ran out of the building.
Jamal Davis said he first smelled smoke around 4 p.m. Thursday while working at his UaintUS recording studio. He said he asked his wife if she had burned incense earlier because the smell was so strong. After he began to see smoke billowing in the air, he said he went down the hall to knock on his neighbors’ doors.
“That’s when I got to the door where the smoke was coming from, about three or four doors down from my space,” Davis said Friday morning. “The person working in this office started trying to open the door from the outside. He put his shoulder in and when he hit him the devil fingers came out. The flames just died out.
Wellman, 34, who runs recording studio Gift Entertainment, said the unit where the fire apparently started was completely engulfed by the time the door opened and no one could get close enough to try to turn it off.
Davis and Wellman said no smoke detectors, fire alarms or sprinklers went off in the building on Thursday.
“I was my own smoke detector,” Davis said. “I ran into my room and grabbed my things and left my door open, trying to call my cats to follow me.”
Davis said he tried to cover his face with a piece of cloth to go back and save his four cats, but the smoke was too thick and someone pulled him out of the building. All the cats perished.
The building’s layout and interior construction made it difficult to fight the fires, Scott said, because the studios had significant amounts of insulation and double layers of drywall, which concentrated the heat.
“Our firefighters have been beaten,” he said.
Davis said he never felt unsafe in the building until Thursday, when he ran for his life. He said he was calling his cats at the entrance to the building when he heard a woman screaming for help from the second floor. It was Aimee Osbourne, who was with her producer, he said.
“I did my best to tell them where I could see the fire, where it was moving, and told them where to find the stairwell,” Davis said. “I was calling my cats and Aimee said she found the exit by hearing my voice.”
In her Instagram post, Sharon Osbourne called the experience “horrible”.
“I really hope that in the future buildings like this will be better regulated when it comes to fire safety,” she said. “This building was a creative hub for music in Hollywood, a space that should have been regulated by the fire code.”
Several recording studios are listed as occupying the building. Sharon Osbourne said many artists working outside the space lost their equipment.
“Once again our prayers go out to the family and friends of the person who lost their life in this senseless fire,” Sharon Osbourne said in the Instagram post.