Signal Hill apartment fire leaves retired army veteran, wife without a home for a year

The couple have started a GoFundMe page to cover repair costs.

Courtesy Iran and Tasha White
Local fire and police crews responded to an apartment fire in the early morning of Friday Oct. 11, 2019 in which no one was injured. Iran White, who’s condo was totaled in the blaze, has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for lost items.

Iran White, a resident at the Harbor Lights apartment complex in Signal Hill and US Army veteran, was spending the evening of Oct. 10 on his balcony, observing the city lights and listening to music as the day came to a close.

At approximately 11pm, White started to get ready for bed. He turned off the lights, secured the front door and grabbed some water.

A little before 1am, White began to doze off to sleep but was woken up when he heard glass breaking from his patio room area. He peered out into the hallway to investigate the noise and noticed a bright orange glow. White feared the worst, and sprang into action.

“I immediately jump up, wake my wife up, run into the hallway, and I can see the glow and I know it’s a fire,” White said.

The flames had caused the 7-foot-tall patio window to shatter as it began to creep deeper into the condo.

White recalled grabbing a fire extinguisher and attempting to fight the fire on his own.

The US Army veteran said he suffers from a spinal-cord injury and must use a wheelchair at times when he experiences incapacitating episodes. He was thankful his injury did not spike while he was evacuating his home and fighting off the flames.

“There are times when, for example, I’ll have an episode and my back seizes up completely, and I’m just stuck in bed,” White said. “Luckily, I wasn’t in the middle of one of those episodes Thursday night.”

White’s condo did not have shared walls with other neighbors, so the threat of the fire jumping was not great, White thought, but he still made his way to his nearby neighbors and warned them to vacate the building.

The authorities had been notified of the fire, and units from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Long Beach Fire Department and Signal Hill Police Department responded to the call.

Signal Hill police told the Signal Tribune that no injuries were reported as a result of a fire, but a tenant did step on shattered glass during the evacuation.

The LA County fire crew that put out the fire were rotated with a second crew and unavailable to comment as of press time.

White said LA County fire inspectors determined a power strip faulted and caused the fire.

“It stopped working and heated up, caught fire, and that was the cause of the fire,” White said.

There was no structural damage to the building, but White said he and his wife lost most of their personal belongings, including White’s medications and wheelchair.

The couple has created a GoFundMe page to collect funds to help recover the lost items. White said his insurance company would pay for the repairs, but it would leave them out of the condo for about a year.

A city inspector also determined the condo as “totaled and uninhabitable,” according to the GoFundMe page.

White said a family friend and neighbor has allowed them to stay with them in the meantime.