A robotic firefighting vehicle was used for the first time in the United States to battle a major emergency fire in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday, officials said.
The fire broke out in a textile business and spread to an adjacent building, and more than 130 firefighters extinguished the flames and prevented them from spreading further.
It was reported at about 4:45 a.m. in the 800 block of South Crocker Street and was extinguished in about three and a half hours, said Margaret Stewart of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
One firefighter was taken to a hospital for treatment of “non-life threatening heat-related illness,” Stewart said in a statement.
“LAFD Arson Section is actively investigating the cause of the fire based on protocols due to the size of the incident,” Stewart said.
Arriving firefighters found a fire outside the building that appeared to spread into the structure, Stewart said.
Crews made their way into the building and found fire burning inside, fueled by stacks of rolled fabric, and the incident commander requested additional resources, Stewart said.
A “robotic firefighting vehicle” was used during the fire, according to Stewart.
The vehicle, call the RS3, is a remote-controlled, track-mounted robot made by Textron, and it was used in this fire to clear debris inside the structure “to facilitate a more effective attack on the fire while eliminating the need to put any firefighters at risk,” Stewart said.
“The RS3 was purchased and donated to the department by the LAFD Foundation, making it the first use of a robotic firefighting vehicle in the country.”
Firefighters appeared to have gained the upper hand on the flames within about 40 minutes, but the flames spread to an adjacent building. Each building is single story, and about 25-feet-by-75 feet, LAFD Capt. Erik Scott said.
The buildings house a number of businesses, including textile companies and flower marts. One business was RB Textiles Inc., a fabric wholesaler.
“Due to the heavy amount of fire load inside of these multiple occupancies, with rolls of fabric and flower stores, we’ve been forced into a defensive operation, meaning that we pulled our firefighters from the inside out, to ensure their safety,” Scott told reporters at the scene after daybreak.
The fire was extinguished by 8:20 a.m., the fire department said.
Fire crews were expected to remain on scene for hours conducting “an extensive overhaul operation,” the LAPD reported.