A “major explosion” shook downtown Los Angeles late Saturday at a hash oil factory that injured at least 11 firefighters, authorities said.
Capt. Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department said: “One blast shook the area at 6:30 p.m. Within, firefighters had to run through a wall of flames which he estimated to be 30 feet high and wide, and those on the roof scrambled down a ladder engulfed in fire.”
“The explosion was identified by people on scene as sounding like a freight train or jet engine,” Scott said. Some of the fleeing firefighters were on fire and had their protective gear torn off and left it on the sidewalk along with melted helmets.”
“We know we’re at risk when we go to any emergency, but we never want to see this happen. So we’re hoping that all these firefighters can recover,” Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Nicholas Prange told KTLA.
Although it was not immediately clear what caused the explosion, Scott said that the fire may have originated from Smoke Tokes Warehouse Distributor, a warehouse distributor he described as a “butaneous honey oil” producer.
Butane is an odorless gas that ignites quickly, according to AP, and is used in the process to extract the highly stimulating chemical THC from cannabis plants to produce a highly active concentrate often known as hash oil. The oil is used in vape pens, edibles, waxes, etc.
All 11 firefighters suffered burns ranging from minor to serious. Three were listed as critical condition, and two of them were on ventilators. All were expected to survive.
“The good news is everybody’s going to make it,” Los Angeles 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.
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 fire truck 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.
The injured firefighters were rushed to the hospital. Those who remained at the scene, unaware of the seriousness of their colleagues’ injuries, were traumatized by what had transpired, Terrazas said.