Lomita apartment complex devastated by massive fire, residents assess damage

Residents of a Lomita apartment complex returned for the first time Sunday, after much of the building was destroyed in a massive fire Saturday night. Residents were escorted back onto the property Sunday to sift through the wreckage.

For residents like Stacey Lamers-Bagabo, Sunday was the first time she saw her home since the fire. Her unit suffered lots of water and smoke damage, but is still intact. Fire crews had to red tag the whole building.

"I'm luckier than many," she said. "And, honestly, there's so much we can be grateful for."

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Most of her neighbors in the 25-unit Vista Verde condominium complex weren't as lucky. Several homes in the building were completely gutted by the blaze.

The fire broke out just after 6:30 p.m. Saturday. It took 150 firefighters more than three hours to put out the flames. At one point, the heat caused a nearby transformer to explode. 

But despite the damage, first responders got every person and pet out alive.

"They were all just really caring, and they did a great job," Lamers-Bagabo said of fire crews.

Tammy Balner is a neighbor. She said she's thankful everyone got out alive, but called the fire "devastating. I feel so bad for these people, and the holiday weekend, I don't know, now they're going to be finding new places to live. It just doesn't look like it's going to be rebuilt anytime soon."

Lamers-Bagobo said the last 24 hours have been long, but she's remaining grateful.

"It's a new day. Were're gonna figure it out," she said. "We can be grateful that we're not starving, we're not at war. We have our families around us, and it's Easter."

Lamers-Bagobo has been able to stay with family. Other displaced residents are working with the Red Cross to find housing. Several residents who suffered extreme losses are fundraising to help recover their losses. Information on those fundraisers can be found by tapping or clicking here, here and here.

The building has been red tagged and is now under guard 24/7 by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.