11 firefighters injured in downtown Los Angeles explosion

SUNDAY, MAY 17, 2020

An explosion Saturday night that rumbled an area in downtown Los Angeles injured 11 firefighters as they responded to a raging fire in a business that manufactures hash oil.

Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Erik Scott said the "significant explosion" came after firefighters were called at about 6 p.m. Friday to a report of a fire at a commercial building on Boyd St. in the city's Toy District. The firefighters who entered the building were looking for the seat of the fire when the building erupted, spreading the flames to several nearby downtown buildings, Scott told reporters near the scene. Mayday was called and 230 firefighters responded, setting up a triage area to treat fellow wounded firefighters. Two hours after the initial call, the fire was put out.

The blast and flames melted firefighters' helmets, blackened a fire truck parked across the street and charred a ladder firefighters climbed to access the one-story commercial building, Scott said.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

"This is a paramount concern to determine what caused this," Scott said.

The injured firefighters are expected to survive, he said. Four firefighters were taken to the burn unit, and two of them were on ventilators, LAFD medical director Marc Eckstein said at a press conference Saturday night at the hospital treating the firefighters, Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center.

"Things could have been so much worse today," he said, adding that there's no evidence of injuries from a blast.

That may be because the officer in charge of the scene saw the heat and pressure from inside the rear of the warehouse was increasing so he ordered the firefighters to leave when the blast happened, LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said during the briefing.

"Things didn't seem right," he said.

As firefighters ran out of the building, their coats were on fire, witnesses saw, according to Terrazas.

"We've been saying for the last two months, even more than usual, how much we appreciate our medical personal and first responders," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the briefing, referring to the coronavirus pandemic, "and tonight I'm doubly and deeply grateful for both of them."

The building that exploded housed the wholesale business SmokeTokes, which Scott says makes "butane honey oil." Butane, an odorless gas that easily ignites, is used in the process that creates hash oil with THC from cannabis. The oil is used in vaporizers, waxes and other products that the SmokeTokes business retails on its website.

The business didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.