Firefighters have made a dramatic ladder rescue of a man about to jump from a burning Los Angeles high-rise apartment building.
Helicopters plucked 15 people from the roof as other terrified residents fled through smoke-choked stairwells to safety.
Six people are in hospital, two in critical condition, including the would-be jumper, after the fire that occurred in a building where a similar blaze broke out seven years ago.
Residents described a frightening flight to safety, as they tried to move down crowded stairwells that forced some to turn back and go to the roof. Firefighters were coming up the stairs as people with children, pets and some elderly tenants moved slowly downwards.
Firefighters had been at an office building fire two blocks away when the blaze broke out on Wilshire Boulevard on the edge of the tony Brentwood section of the city, allowing a rapid response.
A resident of the building with burns on his arms was hanging from a window as if he was going to jump. Firefighters inflated an airbag below but managed to get a ladder to him to save him.
More than 330 firefighters responded and it took about 90 minutes to put out the blaze, deputy fire chief Armando Hogan said. Arson investigators are looking into whether it was deliberately set.
“It is suspicious right now,” fire chief Ralph Terrazas said.
Two 30-year-old men who were in the apartment where the fire began were in critical condition, and one was described as grave. Fire crews had to crawl on their bellies using bottled oxygen to reach the flat where the blaze began. Five others were treated at the scene.
The fire left windows blown out and heavy black smoke or burn marks on three sides of building. Residents who fled in whatever they wearing or could quickly get into – some in pyjamas – gathered on nearby street corners and looked up as helicopters hovered and hoisted rooftop evacuees and a small white dog to safety.
A fire at the Barrington Plaza high-rise in 2013 injured several people and displaced more than 100.
Fire officials said the building was not equipped with sprinklers. It was built in 1961 before regulations required fire-suppression systems in buildings taller than 75 feet.