A fiery explosion Saturday evening left 11 firefighters injured, with two in critical condition on ventilators, after they entered a smoky building in the industrial Toy District of downtown Los Angeles, authorities said.
Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Erik Scott said the “significant explosion” happened about 6:30 p.m. and shook the neighborhood around 327 East Boyd St., which he reported to be a one-story business called Smoke Tokes Warehouse Distributor, “a supplier for those who make butane honey oil.”
The fire was initially reported at 6:26 p.m. Shortly after firefighters arrived and began an offensive battle, crews entered the building and were inside 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 immediately taken to County USC Medical Center, 2051 Marengo St., he said.
Dr. Marc Eckstein, medical director for LAFD and physician at the center, said all 11 firefighters would remain at the hospital overnight for observation and all were expected to survive their injuries.
Eckstein said they all arrived at the hospital awake and alert, but two firefighters were put on ventilators due to smoke inhalation and four were sent to the intensive care unit for burns. Most of the burns, he said, were on their upper extremities.
“All are stable at this time,” the doctor said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “The good news is that everybody is going to make it,” but he 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 that firefighters on that ladder climbed down with their coats on fire.
Knowing that some were injured, Terrazas said many other firefighters from the scene were traumatized from the event.
“When one of your own is injured … you can imagine the amount of mental stress,” he said.
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 out at 8:08 p.m.
“This has been a very difficult situation,” Scott said, noting that he would provide the community with updates as soon as possible.
The cause of the fire “is of paramount concern,” Scott said. It was under investigation.