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Multiple firefighters suffer ‘significant injuries’ in explosion in Los Angeles

Video shows moment of blast that injured 11 LAFD firefighters battling a one-story commercial building fire near downtown’s Skid Row


Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters push ambulance cots at the scene of a structure fire that injured multiple firefighters, according to a fire department spokesman, Saturday, May 16, 2020, in Los Angeles.

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

UPDATE: May 18, 6 p.m. PST

The radio traffic from the event has been released. See YouTube clip below. You’ll hear emergency traffic followed with start of mayday at 7:38, roof evacuation at 7:59, and mayday followed with PAR at 8:13.

As to the condition of the injured members, reports: “The LAFD firefighters who are still in the hospital are all making steady progress. Of the injuries, the burns are tough, as one firefighter is suffering severe burns, with the balance being less critical, but serious.”

UPDATE: May 16, 10:11 p.m. PST

LAFD Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Dr. Marc Eckstein, the LAFD medical director and an attending physician at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center, held a press briefing Saturday night to share an update on the 11 firefighters injured.

Mayor Garcetti announced that all 11 firefighters would be kept at the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center overnight, but “everyone is going to make it.”

Chief Terrazas shared that the injured firefighters were all from Engine 9, located in downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row.

Describing the initial operations, Terrazas said some crewmembers had entered the interior of the structure from the front, and other members had gone to the roof to perform ventilation. The interior officer felt that conditions in the building “didn’t seem right” and ordered everyone out of the building. Terrazas said the members were “self-exiting” when the explosion occurred, adding that one eyewitness described seeing the firefighters coming down the aerial ladder from the roof with “turnout coats on fire.”

Dr. Eckstein said all 11 firefighters were awake upon arrival at the hospital. Four of the firefighters are in the burn ICU. Two firefighters are on ventilators to manage airway swelling but are stable. The burn injuries range from minor to very serious, and Eckstein expects that one firefighter will require skin grafting. He said most of the burns are to the upper extremities, back, ears and hands.

Eckstein added, “It could have been much worse.”

Chief Terrazas said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, although they do know there was butane on the premise of one of the businesses involved, Smoke Tokes Wholesale Distribution, which makes butane honey oil.

Watch the video of the full update below.


By Janelle Foskett

Los Angeles — Several firefighters were injured in a mayday event in downtown Los Angeles Saturday afternoon.

The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) initially reported that up to 10 firefighters were “down” following an explosion at the site of a one-story commercial building fire with smoke showing on Boyd Street. The department has since reported that 11 firefighters suffered burn and other injuries in the incident.

Firefighters found smoke coming from a one-story commercial building and engaged in an aggressive fire attack in the offensive mode, according to the LAFD: “Firefighters made entry to chase the seat of the fire, when a significant explosion occurred. A mayday was put out over the radio and multiple firefighters were found with significant injuries. Additional units were added, making it a Major Emergency incident. A medical branch was created to attend to injured firefighters, while other crews continued attacking the fire from a defensive posture. Knockdown was achieved almost two hours after the first alarm.”

More than 200 firefighters ultimately responded to the scene.

LAFD spokesman Nicholas Prange told KTLA that most of the injured firefighters were transported to a hospital, later identified as Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center.

PIO Captain Erik Scott also shared that multiple fire apparatus were damaged in the explosion.

The Associated Press reported that the fire appeared largely under control by 7:15 p.m. PST. A hazmat team was en route by 7:30 p.m. PST, according to Prange.

Full radio traffic

LAFD press briefing at approximately 9:45 p.m. PST:

Video of blast


LAFD firefighters work the scene of a structure fire that injured multiple firefighters, according to a fire department spokesman, Saturday, May 16, 2020, in Los Angeles.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill