11 fire­fight­ers hurt while flee­ing from downtown LA blast

The State - - Nation - BY STE­FANIE DAZIO AND FRANK BAKER

An ex­plo­sion Satur­day at a hash oil man­u­fac­turer in downtown Los Angeles in­jured 11 fire­fight­ers who had gone in­side and on the roof to try to knock down a fire and then had to run for their lives when a ball of flames shot out the build­ing and scorched a firetruck across the street.

Los Angeles Fire Depart­ment Capt. Erik Scott said “one significan­t ex­plo­sion” shook the neigh­bor­hood around 6:30 p.m. Fire­fight­ers in­side had to run through a wall of flames he es­ti­mated as 30 feet high and wide, and those on the roof scram­bled down a lad­der that was en­gulfed in fire.

Some of the flee­ing fire­fight­ers were on fire and tore off their pro­tec­tive equip­ment and left it on the side­walk, along with melted hel­mets, Scott said.

“The was one of the worst scenes I’ve seen,” he said.

All 11 fire­fight­ers suf­fered burns rang­ing from mi­nor to se­ri­ous. Three were listed as crit­i­cal con­di­tion, and two were on ven­ti­la­tors. All were ex­pected to sur­vive.

“The good news is ev­ery­body’s go­ing to make it,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news con­fer­ence out­side the Los Angeles County-Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Med­i­cal Cen­ter where all the in­jured were treated.

“Things could have been so much worse,” said Los Angeles Fire Depart­ment Med­i­cal Di­rec­tor Dr. Marc Eck­stein, who works at the hospi­tal and helped treat the in­jured.

Fire­fight­ers were called to the city’s Toy Dis­trict for a re­port of a fire at a one-story com­mer­cial build­ing. There was light to mod­er­ate smoke when fire­fight­ers en­tered the build­ing and went on the roof, nor­mal pro­ce­dures to try to quickly knock down any flames.

Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Ter­razas said one of the fire­fight­ers in­side the build­ing thought things didn’t seem right – the pres­sure from the smoke and heat com­ing from the rear of the build­ing were in­creas­ing.

He di­rected ev­ery­one to get out, and as they quickly started ex­it­ing the build­ing, it was rocked by the ex­plo­sion.

Fire­fight­ers on the roof scram­bled down lad­ders with their pro­tec­tive coats on fire. The wall of flames shot out the build­ing and burned seats in­side a firetruck across the street.

More than 200 fire­fight­ers rushed to the scene, and dozens of en­gines, trucks and res­cue ve­hi­cles clogged the streets. The fire spread to sev­eral nearby build­ings, but fire­fight­ers were able to douse it in about an hour.

Scott said the build­ing was a ware­house for SmokeTokes, which he de­scribed as a maker of “bu­tane honey oil.” Bu­tane is an odor­less gas that eas­ily ig­nites, and it’s used in the process to ex­tract the high-in­duc­ing chem­i­cal THC from cannabis to cre­ate a highly po­tent con­cen­trate also known as hash oil. The oil is used in vape pens, edi­bles, waxes and other prod­ucts.

The cause of the fire is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

RINGO H.W. CHIU AP

Los Angeles Fire Depart­ment fire­fight­ers work a struc­ture fire Satur­day in Los Angeles.

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