Two apartment buildings in the Westlake district were evacuated Saturday morning because of a gas explosion that damaged an underground utility vault, sent flames shooting through a sidewalk and prompted natural gas service and electricity in the area to be turned off as a precaution.
Firefighters responded at 6:15 p.m. Friday to the area around Westlake Avenue and Seventh Street and found flames and smoke coming through a sidewalk, according to Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
No injuries were reported, but an odor of gas prompted the evacuation of a 42-unit apartment building in the 700 block of Westlake Avenue and later of a second three-story apartment building, this one with 32 units, in the same block, Humphrey said.
“SoCalGas crews have not located a natural gas leak on any pipeline in this area, however our crews are in the process of shutting off natural gas service to this area as a precaution, which will result in an unknown number of outages,” Southern Califronia Gas Co. spokeswoman Christine Detz said.
Detz said they were investigating the cause of the explosion.
“This area of Los Angeles is known to have pockets of naturally occurring methane underground and testing is being done to determine whether this may be the cause of (Friday’s) incident,” Detz said.
Hazardous materials crews located a damaged underground vault across the street from the apartment building, Humphrey said.
An LAFD battalion chief at the scene said crews at a nearby fire station felt the explosion.
Buses took 62 evacuated residents to an American Red Cross shelter set up at the Lafayette Recreation Center at 625 S. Lafayette Park Place, Humphrey said.
Westlake Avenue was closed between Seventh and Eighth streets and was expected to remain that way until fire department operations at the scene were complete, Humphrey said.
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