Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive


Photo shows flames and smoke raging atop the fashionable seven-story Voltaire apartments in Hollywood as a fie gutted the luxurious top stories and sent scores of film tenants hurrying to the street.  One fireman, E. W. Wood, died of injuries received when he fell 100 feet from the blazing roof.  Two other firemen were injured.  The fire, which is said to have followed a mysterious explosion, resulted in $150,000 damage to the structure.
----Photo by Eric Hatch, writer, who rushed to the scene.

ROOF;  LOSS $150,000

A conflagration that drove a score of film colony tenants into the smoke-darkened street outside and caused the death of one fireman and the serious injury of two others, destroyed the roof and upper stories of the fashionable seven-story Voltaire apartments at 1428 Crescent Heights boulevard early today.

    The blaze started shortly after 6 a. m. and in a short time there was a column of flame and smoke that rose 150 feet against the morning sky above Laurel canyon.  Before 11 fire companies extinguished it, it had wrought an estimated damage of $150,000.

    More than a thousand persons stood in the street to watch the dramatic fire-fight.  The fire was of a mysterious origin, and both county and city arson squads are conducting an investigation.

    Among the screen notables who fled the burning building were Kathlyn Williams, Alan Hale, Margaret Ettinger and Ross Shattuck, players' agents, Ann Bauchen, head cutter for Cecil B. De Mille, and Marcella Knapp of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer casting office.  From an adjoining apartment building rushed Maureen O'Sullivan.  Form one down the street came John Farrow, writer.  The latter kept his car in the Voltaire garage and had rushed over in time to rescue it.

    The fireman who lost his life was D. W. Woods, 38, of County Engine company No. 8.  He and Curtis Dillin, of City Engine company No. 27, were pitched from the burning building's steep Norman roof, unnoticed because of the dense



Fire in Voltaire Apartments Kill One and Injures Six

       In the early hours of February 20, 1935, when L.A. Times delivery boy Gordon Harter, 21, of 1326 N. Stanley Ave., was delivering the L. A. Times in the hills above Hollywood, he noticed smoke coming from the Voltaire Apartments at 1424 Crescent Heights Blvd. He didn't hear fire or police sirens, so he drove down to investigate. He found the the front door locked, so he went around to the back and broke into the hall and ran all the bells in the apartments from the buttons at the front desk. Then he ran down all the halls and pounded on doors and told people to get out. Smoke on the upper two floors was very thick.
      Scantily clad tenants, many of whom were actors or worked in the movie colony, rushed from the building just before the elevator crashed down when the cables melted from the fire on top of the building. Among screen notables who fled the building were: actress Kathlyn Williams, Margaret Ettinger and her husband, Russ Shattuck, actor's agents and Marcella Knapp, casting director at MGM. Others who were attracted to the fire were actor Alan Hale, who lived next door with his family, actor Ralph Graves, writer John Farrow and actress Maureen O'Sullivan. Farrow kept his car in the Voltaire garage. The fire started shortly before 6 a.m. in the elevator shaft from a carelessly tossed cigarette, and spread rapidly to the sixth and seventh floor.

One county fireman was killed and six others injured in the fire. D.W. Woods, 35, of Company No. 6 died from a crushed chest when he fell from the sloping slate roof into a clump of bushes, 100 feet below. Woods lived at 7500 Fountain Ave. The Voltaire, a beautifully landscaped property of French Norman architecture, was built in 1928 at a cost of about $400,000. It housed about 150 tenants.

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