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First Interstate Bank fire

First Interstate Bank fire

May 4, 1988: Flames rise from the First Interstate Bank Building at Wilshire Boulevard and Hope Street. The fire, considered to be the worst high-rise fire in Los Angeles history, destroyed four floors of the 62-story building.

The fire burned for over three hours, killing one person and injuring 40. About 300 firefighters responded, approximately 40% of the Los Angeles City Fire Department. Helicopters rescued tenants from the roof while dropping off firefighters.

The building is now named the Aon Center.

Retired Los Angeles Times photographer Boris Yaro responded to the scene. He writes:

When I arrived the Fire Department was having difficulty reaching the fire due to the number of floors up from the ground.

There was no reasonable place to get an overall showing the height of the building in a normal manner. So I used a 20-millimeter Nikon lens on a Nikon camera and laid down in the middle of the street and shot straight up. The angle produced a keystone effect, but got the job done. The exposure was probably 30th a second at f/4.

I was able to get the whole building and one or two persons in the photo. In addition, I was able to get the LAFD helicopter up at the fire floor level trying to calm people trapped in the building.


Keystone effect is name applied to perspective distortion, especially noticeable with wide angle lenses, that is caused by the film plane not being parallel to the plane of the subject. In other words, buildings look like they are falling down.


  1. October 6, 2010, 9:35 am

    I was sitting on the steps of the L.A. City Library.
    Watching and eating some left over peanuts from the Dodger game my brother and I just left.
    It was incredible to see!

    By: jESSE
  2. October 6, 2010, 9:39 am

    Watching from the steps of the L.A. City Library.
    Eating some peanuts left over from the earlier Dodger game.
    It was a visual experience I will never forget!

    By: Jesse
  3. October 6, 2010, 10:40 am

    I like this – very cool to see how archived photos were shot from the photographers. This is an interesting story, too. Keep 'em comin'!

    By: Steve
  4. October 6, 2010, 11:10 am

    I know of a couple of people that worked in the building AFTER the fire. They say it's haunted with the spirit of the Guard that died, when he took the elevator up and opened the door. Now they say you can see him enter the elevator with you some times and leave with you on those floors, and other times if you are working late buy yourself, the keyboard will rap like someones typing next to you and mouse in the next cubicle will move around by itself.

    By: Stanley
  5. October 11, 2010, 9:23 am

    I was working in Downtown when this happened and listened to the event on the radio. The death of the security officer was very tragic in that nothing (no safety interlock or control logic) prevented him from entering the elevator and allowing it to land and open on a floor with fire. If I remember correctly, the elevator opened the door and parked at the floor.

    By: Bob
  6. July 7, 2011, 4:09 pm

    I replaced all the curtainwall and glass on the job. I remember we had a few ghost stories also.

    By: tim taylor
  7. June 18, 2012, 4:05 pm

    The person who died was a building engineer. Not a securtiy officer.

    By: vocomchris
  8. September 11, 2012, 2:29 pm

    That is correct, I remember talking to his co-workers several times as they tried to figure out what happened. I was on the elevator when they did their own personal reinactment of what they thought happened that night


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