Family business goes up in flames in downtown LA fire

A family is trying to figure out how to rebuild after their business went up in flames in a fire in downtown Los Angeles.

The major emergency structure fire, called the "Main Street Fire," erupted on the night of Feb. 22 and took 170 firefighters 70 minutes to extinguish.

Elaine Lim recalls getting a call from her husband Steven saying "’oh my gosh, oh my gosh, everything is gone.’"

The Lims are originally from Korea and opened their wholesale business, Lauren Handbags, in 1996. The business was named after their daughter.

"It’s really hard, it’s really hard. You put in your blood, sweat and tears. You raise a family looking for an American dream and we just got through a really long pandemic, just trying to get back on our feet. And to see this, it’s heartbreaking and I don’t put blame on anyone, it’s just in 70 minutes, something you built for 26 years can go down because it could’ve been prevented," Lim said.

The fire that ignited in the back alley is now cleaned up. However, the Lims said before the fire, it was riddled with people experiencing homelessness and trash. The family said they begged the city and sanitation department for years to clean up the encampment but to no avail.

"It was a cold night and they need to stay warm too," Lim recalls about the night of the fire. "We have compassion. We feel so sorry. He donated to the homeless every week. It’s not about the homeless. It’s about someone having to be accountable."

The building is now red-tagged along with embroidery and clothing businesses on either side.

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"Our neighbors here didn’t have insurance. The lady here cried on my shoulders yesterday. And I could hear such a strong emotion. And she said she was here close to 40 years. And she said, ‘everything is gone.’ And she was trying to salvage burned-up, smoked-out clothing," Lim said.

Lim says the only thing worth saving were charred pictures her husband had of their four kids.

"Pictures of them when they were young and toddlers are hanging up proudly behind this desk because they motivated him. And he said, ‘why are you taking that? That’s all burnt to crisp.’ But that’s the meaning of the hard work we put in, and I just wanted to remember that. Because when I rebuild I want to put that back up, so he’s still motivated," she said. 

Lim said this was her last visit to the area "because it’s too painful," but "wanted it to be documented." 

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