Ambulance stolen while firefighters battled fatal California blaze

A 31-year-old Los Angeles man was arrested in Long Beach this week on suspicion of stealing a Fire Department ambulance, after crashing it into a telephone pole, while firefighters were extinguishing a blaze that killed two people and injured one in an abandoned commercial building, authorities said.

Jose Armando Lara ran from the ambulance following the crash but was later found nearby by officers and arrested, Long Beach police spokesman Richard Mejia said.

The ambulance was stolen from the 1700 block of Long Beach Boulevard, Mejia said. That is where firefighters had arrived, just before 9 p.m. Thursday, May 4, to fight the blaze.

At about 9:25 p.m. that night, patrol officers were notified that a stolen vehicle that belonged to the Long Beach Fire Department had been in several hit-and-run collisions. No injuries were reported in those collisions.

Officers found the ambulance in the area of Tribune Court and 16th Street, where it struck a telephone pole less than a half-mile from the fire, but the suspect was gone, the spokesman said. They were able to track him down nearby.

Lara was booked into jail on suspicion of felony hit-and-run, driving under the influence, taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent and hit-and-run resulting in property damage, Mejia said. He was being held in jail on $50,000 bail as of Saturday.


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