Lisa Elliot, 54, died in an early-morning fire March 4 at a Highlands townhouse. LAFD spokesperson Eric Scott said the fire was reported at 17195 Palisades Circle shortly after 3:40 a.m.
Neighbor Maria Kidd, whose bedroom faces the unit, said she looked across the alleyway and “the window exploded. It was unbelievable, it was like bombs going off.” Kidd was one of many people (including the Life Alert Company) who called 911, according to the LAFD.
When Fire Units 69 and 23 arrived, fire was showing out of the second-story window, according to Scott.
“Firefighters made a quick and aggressive attack and were able to confine the fire to one bedroom and a hall,” he said. “A female was found dead in the upstairs bedroom.”
Neighbors initially said they believed the deceased served as a caretaker for Judy Andersen, 74, who had health issues. But on the social media site Nextdoor Palisades, Pam Conway, Anderson’s niece-in-law, said Elliot was not a caregiver, but rather a guest who had been living there for some time.
Scott told the News that Anderson, who was sleeping downstairs, took a home fire extinguisher upstairs in an attempt to extinguish the fire, but was overcome by smoke.
“She was treated by firefighters/paramedics and then taken to a hospital,” Scott said. Andersen returned to her townhouse and spoke to LAFD arson investigators about 8 a.m. Shortly afterwards she left with her nephew, Chris Conway, who neighbors described as “wonderful.” There was concern about a cat, Fluffy, but the investigators located the animal under Anderson’s bed downstairs.
“The scene is under active investigation by the LAFD Arson section,” Scott said, explaining that officials comb through debris looking for burn patterns.
On March 10, LAFD Arson Investigator Wilkerson told the News, “The investigation is ongoing and will be completed in 25-30 days. The fire does not appear to be related to any wiring in the building. It does appear to be accidental.”
Neighbors said that Elliot was a smoker and that about six months ago, they had helped put out a fire in the kitchen in that same unit. Supposedly, the microwave exploded, causing that fire. Firefighters were unaware of that fire.
A security guard on the site said, “The firefighters did a fantastic job of confining [the fire] to one area.” That praise was also expressed by neighbors, some of whom were taking their dogs out for an early-morning walk.
Scott was asked about smoke detectors and it appears there were two upstairs. “This is a good reminder to have a smoke detector in every bedroom and on every floor,” he said. “It is important that they are functional and are replaced every year. The smoke alarm is like a soldier being on duty 24/7, ready to alert you of a danger.”