Rogue Architect Sentenced in Death of L.A. Firefighter; AIA|LA Responds

AIA|LA responds to Gerhard Becker's one year involuntary manslaughter sentence in the death of an L.A. firefighter.

Image Courtesy of CurbedLA
Gerhard Becker’s Hollywood Hills home Image Courtesy of CurbedLA

Gerhard Becker received a one year involuntary manslaughter sentence in the death of L.A. firefighter Glen Allen, reported the Los Angeles Times today. He was charged with “recklessly installing a fireplace” in his Hollywood Hills home. The frame of the fireplace was built with “combustible materials” instead of a safer alternative like bricks, and there were no firebreaks built into the walls.

“The fire had rocketed up to the attic. The ceiling eventually collapsed, crushing three firefighters, including Allen, who later died at a hospital due to lack of oxygen to his brain while he was pinned down,” wrote Paresh Dave of the L.A. Times.

Dave also wrote that, “prosecutors allege Becker told a city building inspector that he didn’t plan to build any fireplaces in his three-story, 12,000-square-foot hillside house. But authorities say he did so anyway after the final inspection in November 2010.”

Was Gerhard Becker an outlier in this cavalier breach of building code? DnA asked the L.A. chapter of the American Institute of Architects and they stated the following:

“The American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIA|LA) is deeply saddened by this unfortunate tragedy. Licensed Architects complete a rigorous program of study and training so that their designs meet exacting standards to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public that they serve. It is important to remember that the individual charged was working in an unlicensed capacity. This tragedy underscores the AIA|LA commitment to encouraging the pursuit of full licensure. Licensed AIA members at the national, state and local levels are required to complete annual continuing education to ensure ongoing proficiency in the field and are held to the highest standards of professionalism and ethical behavior.”

In order to practice architecture in California, architects have to pass a stringent licensing exam; Gerhard Becker was not licensed in this state.