Smoky Blaze Leaves Office Unit Gutted

Smoke pours from an office at 1510 Oxley St. on Monday, Dec. 23, as firefighters race in to douse the flames. Fire officials said the initial diagnosis on a cause was a faulty heater wire. No one was injured.

Last Monday afternoon’s chilly weather provided a smoky, smelly reminder that it’s a good idea to double check on the safety condition of your heating units.

A smoky blaze, apparently caused by a faulty heater wire, gutted one unit of a single-story Oxley Street office complex and caused smoke damage to two adjacent offices but injured no one, South Pasadena Fire Department officials said.

The whole interior of Kallenberger Jones & Co. – a hotel investment consulting firm that occupied the now-badly-damaged one-room Unit F of 1510 Oxley – was charred or blackened with smoke residue, and occupants of the adjacent offices were temporarily displaced while the potent residual smell of the blaze cleared.

The office complex is located off Fair Oaks Avenue, near the Rialto Theater.

Hank Jones, one of the principals of Kallenberger Jones, said he lost a computer, plus computer files, paper files and other office equipment in the 1 p.m. blaze.

“My Brother printer is melted,’’ Jones, who has worked in the office for about three years, said of the fire’s intensity as he stood outside his office while firefighters finished dousing the flames and checking for lingering hot spots.

Jones said he was out to lunch when he got a call saying his office was ablaze. He said he raced back to the scene, only to see smoke pouring from the unit.

He said fire officials told him an internal wire for the AC/heating unit had caused the fire, though an official report would not be available for a few days.

Temperatures were in the 50s on Monday, and Jones said the heater was running.

“It’s on a timer,’’ he said. “There’s no heating or AC over the weekends.”

Jones also said he had also worked on Sunday — in the cold, because the units are timed to run only Mondays through Fridays.

Hosun Pham, who works in one of the adjoining office units, said he called in the fire around 1 p.m.

The charred interior of the office after firefighters knocked down Monday’s blaze.
Photo by Kevin Kenney

“We noticed the alarm beeping around 1 p.m.,’’ he said. “I didn’t think much of it until I smelled smoke. I ran out of my office and saw smoke coming out of (Jones’) office, and that’s when I called the fire department.”

Firefighters arrived within five minutes, Pham said.

South Pas Fire Capt. Daniel Dunn said that when firefighters arrived, smoke was pouring from the office, but there were no active flames visible.

The flames, Dunn said, had apparently consumed most of the oxygen in the room and there was just a lot of thick smoke and smoldering office equipment.

But, Dunn added, when firefighters opened the door, the “initial rush of oxygen” from the outside caused the flames to reignite and burst forth.

Dunn said firefighters extinguished the flames in about five minutes, then remained on the scene for more than an hour, making sure there were no remaining embers and that the electricity to the office was shut off.

“It looks like a failure of a wire in the heater/AC unit that arced,’’ Dunn said. “It (the fire) didn’t get any of the (building’s) structural components, just the contents of the office.”

In all, firefighters from four area departments responded to the fire — South Pasadena, Pasadena, San Marino and Alhambra.

The four companies combined to deploy four engines, two trucks, one ambulance and two battalion chiefs, Dunn said.

South Pas firefighters look over the charred remains of an office at 1510 Oxley St. Photo by Kevin Kenney