Eleven firefighters reported down, multiple buildings burn after LA explosion

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LOS ANGELES, CA- The explosion happened just after 6:30 p.m. local time in Los Angeles on Saturday.  And it wasn’t long before 11 firefighters were being reported as down as the fires spread to multiple buildings.

The blast reportedly happened while firefighters were responding to a fire at a one-story structure at 327 E. Boyd St., just outside Little Tokyo.

According to LAFD Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas, the firefighters followed their normal routine – some went in through the front of the building and the rest went up on the roof.

He said they quickly realized something wasn’t right, as the smoke pressure inside was escalating and it was getting hotter.

According to the chief, the officer in charge directed everybody to get out quickly.  He said as they were all trying to leave, the explosion happened.

“Our firefighters came down the aerial ladder from the roof with their turnout coats on fire,” the chief said.

They put out a Mayday call over the radio.

“The kind of call I always dread is a significant incident, with the potential of a lot of our firefighters injured,” the fire chief said.

He made the comments to local media while standing at the scene of the explosion next to the rescue ambulance of Fire Engine 9.  That’s an engine that belonged to the crew with the injured firefighters.

According to LAFD Captain Erik Scott, the fire appears to have started at Smoke Tokes Warehouse Distributor.

That’s a supplier for businesses that make butane honey oil.  They found small butane canisters inside and outside.

In video footage released by local media, you can see huge dark plumes of smoke billowing over the area and flames shooting up from at least one of the buildings.

“Significant explosion — very high, very wide, rumbling the entire area— and firefighters were coming out with obvious damage and burns,” Scott said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said all 11 firefighters were hospitalized, three of them in critical condition and one in serious condition.

They previously estimated that 10 firefighters were hurt.

Here’s a breakdown:

Four firefighters will be going to the burn intensive care unit.

Two firefighters were placed on ventilators for swelling of their airways from inhalation of the superheated gases.

The rest suffered varying burns to their upper extremities. Those range from very serious, to moderate, to minor.  That comes directly from Dr. Marc Eckstein, attending physician County USC Medical Center.  That’s the hospital where the firefighters were being treated.

He believes they’ll all survive.

“We have every anticipation the firefighters will pull through,” the doctor said.

When the explosion happened, the doctors and crew members were all put on alert.

“We know we’re at risk when we go to any emergency, but we never want to see this happen,” department spokesman Nicholas Prange said.

Moments after the explosion, LAFD upgraded the incident to “a major emergency”.

In total, more than 230 firefighters responded to the fire.  By 8:10 p.m. they’d put down the bulk of the flames.

Prange said it was incredible difficult to battle the blaze, as they were pouring water on the flames from outside as they were unable to go inside of the buildings, Prange said.

“We’re always worried about a secondary explosion, we don’t know what caused the first one and we’re trying to avoid this incident becoming even worse if the second one does happen,” Prange told local media.

He said they spent hours on “defense” mode, then were later able to switch into offensive mode, attacking and putting down the fire.

It’s still not clear what cause the explosion or whether there were hazardous materials involved.

A hazmat team responded to the scene and will remain a part of the investigation.

Prange warned people through the media as the flames raged on that they should find a way to shelter themselves from the smoke.  He said that even a tent would help.

The explosion happened only blocks away from Skid Row.

 

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