Criminal Probe Underway in Blast, Fire in Downtown Business | KCET
Criminal Probe Underway in Blast, Fire in Downtown Business
LOS ANGELES (CNS) - An investigation is underway today to determine if criminal conduct was involved in a fiery explosion in the downtown Los Angeles Toy District that injured a dozen firefighters and damaged buildings and fire equipment.
Los Angeles Fire Department's arson and counter-terrorism unit, the criminal conspiracy section of the Los Angeles Police Department's Major Crimes Division and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are involved in the investigation.
“The National Response Team ... along with ATF special agents from the Los Angeles Field Division, were activated today to join the investigation of the fire,” the ATF said in a statement released this morning. “The NRT callout will have experts arriving today and they will begin processing the scene.”
The NRT was activated at the request of the Los Angeles city officials, according to ATF.
“ATF is committed to working alongside Los Angeles Fire Department to determine the origin and cause of this fire that tragically injured firefighters,” said Monique Villegas, special agent in charge of ATF's Los Angeles Field Division. “ATF will provide whatever resources are necessary to thoroughly investigate and provide answers.''
Carbon dioxide and butane canisters were found inside the building but it's unknown if they contributed to the explosion, LAFD spokesman Nicholas Prange told City News Service.
The explosion happened about 6:30 p.m. Saturday while firefighters responded to the initial call of a fire in a single-story building at 327 Boyd St., between East Third and Fourth streets, housing a business called Smoke Tokes Warehouse Distributor, “a supplier for those who make butane honey oil,” according to LAFD Capt. Erik Scott.
Firefighters had begun an offensive battle inside the building when there was an explosion and multiple buildings became involved, Scott said.
“There was a significant explosion that caused a mayday report,” Scott explained. “This was upgraded to a major emergency category.”
Some of the 11 firefighters suffered “obvious damage and burns” in the explosion and were taken to County-USC Medical Center, according to Scott, who said two of them were listed in critical but stable condition.
A 12th firefighter was treated and released from an emergency room Saturday for a minor extremity injury.
Three firefighters were released from the hospital Sunday. As of late Monday morning, six firefighters remained hospitalized, Scott reported.
Dr. Marc Eckstein, medical director for LAFD and a physician at County-USC, said the 11 hospitalized firefighters arrived awake and alert, but two were put on ventilators due to smoke inhalation and four were sent to the intensive care unit for burns. Most of the burns, Eckstein said, were on their upper extremities.
On Sunday, the two firefighters were removed from ventilators, but remained in intensive care, Prange said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, at a briefing that night, said: “The good news is that everybody is going to make it,” but added, “We have a lot of firefighters who are shaken up.”
LAFD Chief Ralph M. Terrazas said the mayday call, which is used only when a firefighter is “down, missing or trapped,” was “the kind of call I always dread.”
He said the injured men, who were from Engine No. 9, realized something was wrong when they were inside the building but could not escape in time to avoid the blast. Their fire engine parked outside was charred, and the aerial ladder was damaged — with eyewitnesses saying firefighters on that ladder climbed down with their coats on fire.
Multiple ambulances and fire companies were called to the scene, with more than 230 firefighters responding and establishing a treatment area just east of the building. The fire, which spread from the narrow one-story building where it originated to neighboring businesses, was knocked down at 8:08 p.m.
The cause of the fire “is of paramount concern,” Scott said. Earl King, a 64-year-old man who lives in an alley a block away from the building that went up in flames, said at first the smoke was so minor he thought it was just a trash can fire.
“The smoke was getting bigger,” he said. “And then all the sudden there was a big 'ole popping sound ... POP, POP, POP ... That's when, BOOM! And then we can feel it —you know that little vibration.”
The sound reminded him of a large train chugging right toward him, he said. “It scared the hell outta me,” he said. “And then when we looked up we seen all the smoke, and the ashes coming down with fire on 'em .... It was no joke. It was no joke.”
He said the blaze seemed to be in a complex that includes a vape shop warehouse where he's worked as a day laborer before.
“We be doin' their containers,” he said. “You know, unload their truck.”
King said when he was working in the building he noticed plenty of flammable materials.
“A lot of those warehouses have chemicals, you know the stuff, like butane for lighters, or whatever,” he said.
Police described the area where the explosive fire occurred as “Bong Row” because of a large number of cannabis, CBD and pipe businesses.
A new COVID-19 testing site opened at Dodger Stadium today, which city officials say will accommodate three times more people than any other testing site in Los Angeles County.
In an announcement that will delight shaggy-haired residents statewide, Gov. Gavin Newsom today cleared the way for barbershops and hair salons to open in some counties.
L.A. County parks and beaches were filled with both the cautious and undeterred during the first major holiday since the economy began to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Los Angeles County today reopened some beach parking lots and authorized retail businesses inside enclosed shopping malls to reopen with curbside pickup service only.
- 1 of 290
- next ›
Take a rare behind-the-scenes look inside the busiest fire station in the country, where firefighters act as both primary care providers and emergency responders for the nearly 5,000 people living on Skid Row.
In 2019, California, one of the nation’s most secretive states when it comes to police files, put SB1421 into effect. But a year into the new transparency law, journalists and the public are realizing that the law may not be as transparent as expected.
State and local regulators are overwhelmed and outgunned when it comes to closing down California’s poisonous pot pipeline.
Parents are willing to spend thousands to get the competitive edge in the college admissions process, but at what cost? Socal Connected takes a revealing look at the high stakes world of the for-profit education consultant business.
Socal Connected looks at what happened to LA Jets’ Obea Moore and the current state of youth track and field today.
- 1 of 54
- next ›