By Liam Dillon and Ben Welsh
An explosion in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday caused a large fire that left 11 firefighters injured, authorities said.
Firefighters first received a call about 6:30 p.m. about a structure fire just south of Little Tokyo, said Erik Scott, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.
While firefighters were inside attempting to find the source of the blaze, there was “a significant explosion, very high, very wide, rumbling the entire area,” Scott said. The explosion was so powerful that it blackened a fire engine parked across the street and melted the helmets of some firefighters, he said.
Eleven firefighters were receiving treatment for burn injuries, Scott said. All were taken to County-USC Medical Center. At a news conference at the hospital late Saturday night, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said three of the firefighters sustained critical but not life-threatening injuries. All were expected to survive.
“We’ve been saying for the last two months even more than usual how much we appreciate our medical personnel and first responders,” Garcetti said. “Tonight I’m doubly and deeply grateful for the both of them.”
Scott said more than 240 firefighters had responded to the blaze before it was extinguished shortly after 8 p.m. An initial investigation of the scene identified the business as Smoke Tokes, a warehouse distributor with supplies for butane hash oil, he said. The cause of the fire has not been determined.
“It’s very tough to see our brothers and sisters go through something like this,” Scott said.
He described how several firefighters were inside the building and on the roof fighting the initial blaze when the explosion occurred, causing a tremendous roar that arriving personnel described as sounding like “a freight train or a jet engine.”
A massive ball of flame erupted out of the building, Scott said. Firefighters ran “straight through that ball of flame to get to safety across the street,” he said.
Jeralyn Cleveland was celebrating a family birthday party on the roof of the 13-story apartment building she manages three blocks away when she saw the explosion.
“Everyone in my building thought there was a bomb that went off,” said Cleveland, 37. “It was like a mushroom.”
Cleveland said there are small fires all the time in the neighborhood, which borders skid row, but she had never seen anything like this before.
©2020 Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.