On January 26, at 9:30 a.m., the gutted Hawthorne Mall went up in flames, with smoke billowing from underneath the building, dispatching over 100 firefighters and police officers to the scene.
The former mall, which has been empty since the ’90s, is a beacon for crime and a complete hazard to the community, took two hours to distinguish.
The fire started in the subterranean parking levels of the property’s garage, which is filled with tons of debris and is a well known homeless encampment — which contains over 50 code violations for electrical, plumbing, substandard building conditions, and more.
“The subterranean parking levels of the mall have been used as an encampment for persons experiencing homelessness, and there’s a lot of debris down there,” Fire Inspector Sean Ferguson said. “We believe at this time it was caused by debris that caught fire.”
It was also said that firefighters were placed in an extremely compromising position as they battled the flames in the parking structure, as fires in locations made of cement retain more heat; which causes dense smoke and creates visibility impairments, making it difficult for fire personnel to see three feet in front of them.
For years the City of Hawthorne has received dozens after dozens of complaints from neighbors and constituents of the shuttered property, fearing for their health, safety, and quality of life.
Reuben Sanchez, president of the North Hawthorne Community Association, said residents have had quality of life and health concerns for years. “The place is always full of trash, even though the city tries their best at picking it up, it doesn’t last that long,” Sanchez said. “Summers are the worst for residents and neighbors in the area because they can smell the stench of urine and so on.”
Other residents in the area constantly fear for the safety of teenagers who frequently step foot into the property, completely unaware of the hazardous electrical and structural dangers, along with the potential of the building containing asbestos, which is a thematic concern of residents.
The property is also located in less than half-mile proximity to St. Joseph Elementary School, Hawthorne Math & Science Academy, and the Al-Huda Islamic School, posing a threat to the safety and quality of life of grade school children in the area as well.
Our firm has been working with Hawthorne’s City Attorney Robert Kim and together filed a lawsuit on November 24, 2021, which lists over 50 violations of State and local laws noted during several on-site inspections conducted in March and September of 2021.
“The City has worked for years with the owner to address these issues plaguing the community, yet it has been met with one broken promise after the other. No one deserves to feel unsafe in their own home, and we will do what it takes to make this community feel safe again. This is about quality of life.”
Hawthorne City Attorney Robert Kim
Click here to learn more about the Hawthorne Mall fire in the Daily Breeze.