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Woman found dead inside burnt out apartment in Boyle Heights after firefighters extinguish flames

Body of 68-year-old woman discovered after firefighters extinguish apartment fire in Boyle Heights
Body of 68-year-old woman discovered after firefighters extinguish apartment fire in Boyle Heights 02:08

A person was found dead inside of a burnt out apartment that caught fire in Boyle Heights Wednesday morning.

Los Angeles Fire Department crews were dispatched to the scene of the fire, which reportedly broke out at around 4:30 a.m. on S. Clarence Street. 

When they arrived, they found the apartment engulfed in flames, though they were able to quickly contain the blaze in just over 20 minutes. The flames were limited to just the upper apartment unit. 

Shocking video from the scene show massive flames shooting from the windows and doors of the apartment.

"It was insane," said one resident who lives nearby. "I've never seen fire like that ever in my life."

Kimberly Giles, who also resides in the area said she even grabbed a hose to try and put the flames out before firefighters arrived. 

"It wouldn't go out," she said. "The fire started from the room and the next thing you know the living room, the windows is breaking. It was horrifying."

As they searched the apartment, firefighters located the body and pronounced the person dead at the scene, reportedly that of a 68-year-old woman, who has since been identified as Victoria Mendoza.

Mendoza's family was at the scene early Wednesday, where they were too distressed to speak with reporters in the wake of their loved one's death. 

Giles said she knew that Mendoza lived alone in the apartment, and when she checked to see if her neighbor had gotten out she assumed that since the doors were open she had made it. 

"I didn't know if she got out but when I came outside her doors was open, so I'm thinking dazed and walking around, but she wasn't," Giles said.

Investigators were unsure if she remained sleeping throughout the fire or died while trying to escape from the apartment. 

The flames caused so much damage that firefighters have yet to determine whether the unit had working smoke detectors. 

"Most of the time these fatal fires unfortunately happen in the middle of the night because we're not aware of the fact that a fire is starting in our homes," said LAFD Captain Branden Silverman. "The only thing that's gonna warn us early enough for us to get out is a working smoke alarm."

No surrounding structures sustained damage, and the cause remained under investigation. 

Other residents were told that since the fire did not spread to any additional units, they would be able to return home as soon as crews concluded their work in the area. 

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