The huge fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment complex in downtown Los Angeles — a blaze which could be seen for miles and which was so hot it melted nearby freeway signs — was intentionally set, authorities said Thursday.
A source familiar with the investigation told NBC News that an accelerant was found at the scene of the Dec. 8 blaze at the Da Vinci Apartments on West Temple Street, and that the probe is now officially an arson investigation. Officials said the fire caused $20 to $30 million in damage to the apartment complex, which was under construction when it was engulfed in flames in the middle of the night.
More than 250 firefighters battled the inferno, which was called "historic" and "a career fire" by fire officials. The heat was so intense it blew out the windows of nearby buildings. The Los Angeles Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives combed through 75,000 square feet of debris as they sought to determine a cause, according to those agencies. No arrests have been made.
"The work at the crime scene is finished, however our investigation is not over," ATF Special Agent in Charge Carlos A. Canino said in a statement Thursday. "ATF will continue to work together with our state and local partners to investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice."
Investigators are still looking for two people seen on video near the scene of the fire, but cautioned that they are not considered suspects or persons of interest, and that officials just want to interview them.
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— Phil Helsel contributed to this report.