Monday, June 18: A large fire broke out at a Santa Monica business located at 1928 14th Street, just south of Pico. Two local youths in Santa Monica, grade school students Tyler Walker and Ryan Chamberlain, helped save the day, as they were among the first to spot the smoke. They were playing in the neighborhood and noticed that the sky was filling with dark clouds. “We thought it was going to rain.” Ryan told us. But instead they saw that a building was on fire. They looked for a phone to call the police, and a lady nearby called the Fire Department from her cell phone.
The building was Imperial Media Service, a DVD and CD duplicator business. A client of Imperial Media Service watched the firefighters on the job shaking his head, and told the Mirror he thinks his DVD masters were in the building for a PBS series about to go to DVD, Adventures with Boco. “I have been on the phone for an hour trying to reach the owner to find out if the masters are in there…if they are, the project is up in smoke – literally!”
The Imperial Tape Company, recently renamed Imperial Media Service, was started in 1982 in a small apartment. The owner, Howard Ganz, grew the business into the largest CD duplicator in Southern California, with a long list of corporate clients. His inventory appears to have been lost, though that is uncertain at this time. The building apparently contained large quantities of discs, jewel cases and videotape.
According to the Santa Monica Fire Department press release, “When the first Santa Monica Fire Department units, three Engines Companies, one Truck Company, one Rescue Ambulance and one Battalion Chief, arrived on the scene the fire had already burned through the roof. Two additional Engine Companies and Santa Monica Fire Department Command Staff were immediately requested. Thirty minutes into the fire operation, a “mutual aid” request went out to LA City Fire Department; they responded with 18 Fire Companies, two Rescue Ambulances, five Battalion Chiefs, one Medical Division Supervisor and one Division Chief, consisting of a total of 150 combined personnel on scene. In addition, over 20 members of the Santa Monica Police Department assisted with traffic and crowd control, and the Santa Monica Chapter of the Red Cross established a disaster assistance center to assist personnel on scene.
“This was the largest deployment of fire resources to the City of Santa Monica, since the 1994 Northridge Earthquake,” said the press release.
As the firefighters battled the blaze from multiple locations along 14th Street and in the alley behind the blaze, thick, black smoke billowed into the air. The firefighters spraying the fire from the high vantage point of their ladder trucks were periodically engulfed in smoke as they poured water on it from four different hydrants. One fireman was injured. Fighting the fire was made more difficult by the collapsing of the roof, and later the second floor, so firemen had to withdraw from inside to fight the blaze.
Onlookers standing between headstones in Woodlawn Cemetery – across the street from the fire – watching the progress, made an eerie scene. But all were cheering the firefighters on, and the blaze was put out within a couple of hours.