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Huge Fire Breaks Out On The Edge Of Downtown LA

Firefighters respond to an explosion in downtown Los Angeles that has injured multiple firefighters and caused a fire that spread to several buildings, Saturday, May 16, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)

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UPDATE: Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas led a 9:30 press conference to provide an update following a fire and explosion that occurred around 6:20 p.m. at 327 E. Boyd St., a one-story commercial building in downtown L.A. on the edge of Little Tokyo.

Garcetti said 11 firefighters are being treated at County-USC Hospital. LAFD medical director Dr. Marc Eckstein said four are being treated in the hospital's intensive care burn unit. Three suffered critical but not life threatening injuries. Two of them are on ventilators. A fourth has what were termed "serious" injuries. Many firefighters suffered chemical smoke inhilation.

LAFD public information officer Erick Scott said earlier that a business called Smoke Tokes Warehouse Distributor is located at that location, adding that the business is a supplier for manufacturers of butane honey oil. The company also operates a retail store around the corner at 309 San Pedro St.

Chief Terrazas said the cause of the fire and explosion is under investigation, but he confirmed that there was butane in the building. Butane, which is used to create marijuna extract, can be highly flammable. Terrazas said the department is also investigting whether a previous fire had been reported at that site.

LAFD spokesman Scott said after firefighters entered the building, there was a "significant" explosion.

In an Instagram post, a downtown resident referred to that area as "Bong Row" because of the concentration of smoke shops. That area between Little Tokyo and Skid Row is a mix of commercial businesses and buildings that have been converted into lofts and apartments. Restaurants and breweries have also opened in the rapidly changing neighborhood.

The first firefighters on the scene were reportedly from Station 9, which serves the Skid Row area. The fire was extinguished at 8:08 p.m.

Here's some more info from LAFD's incident report:

"Firefighters found smoke coming from a one-story commercial building and engaged in an aggressive fire attack in the offensive mode. Firefighters made entry to chase the seat of the fire, when a significant explosion occured. 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. Tragically, 11 firefighters with burn and other injuries (severity not confirmed). The occupancy was doing business as Smoke Tokes Wholesale Distributor, reportedly a supplier for those who make butane honey oil. The cause is of great concern to us and is under active investigation.

The smoke and flames were fully put out shortly after 8 p.m. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

LA's Indie Film Community Mourns Loss Of Director Lynn Shelton Today

Lynn Shelton attends "Sword of Trust" Marc Maron & Lynn Shelton in Conversation with Sam Lipsyte at 92nd Street Y on July 11, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

The Hollywood community took to social media today to mourn the death of indie film and television director Lynn Shelton, who passed away yesterday from a blood disorder. She was 54 years old.

Shelton's film, “Humpday,” starring Marc Duplass, won a Special Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. She went on to write and direct several more indie hits, including "Your Sister's Sister," "Outside In" and, most recently, "Sword of Trust."

In recent years she directed for prominent TV series including “Mad Men,” "The Mindy Project," “Glow” and “Little Fires Everywhere.”

Shelton was outspoken about making films on shoestring budgets, without asking for permission from Hollywood gatekeepers.

“I self-generated my work, and I never went around asking permission to make it,” Shelton told the Los Angeles Times in 2014. “The main reason women make inroads in independent film is that no one has to say, ‘I pick you.’ I’m not pounding on anybody’s door. I’m just making my own way."

At the time of her death, she was in a relationship with comedian Marc Maron, who starred in "Sword of Trust." She directed his recent stand-up special, appropriately titled "End Times Fun," for Netflix.

Shelton appeared last year on KPCC's The Frame. You can listen to the full epsiode here.


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LA County Fair Cancelled For First Time Since WWII...Because Corona

Ice Cream at last year's fair. Chava Sanchez/ LAist

The L.A. County Fair, which was scheduled for Sept. 4-27, has been cancelled due to health warnings about holding large public gatherings during the pandemic. The cancellation is historic -- the fair hasn't been called off since WWII, when it shut down from 1942-47. Even during the 9/11 attacks, the fair went on, closing for a day and reopening the next morning.

The Pomona event typically attracts more than a million people and provides temporary employment for more than 500 workers. It also yields some $328 million for the county during its 19-day run.

The decision to cancel the fair after discussions with L.A. County officials was difficult, Fairplex President and CEO Miguel A. Santana said in a press release:

“My heart is heavy, for our guests who come out to make memories, our vendors who rely on the Fair circuit for their income and our employees who work so hard all year-long to create this special event. The L.A. County Fair is an iconic event that celebrates the best of Southern California. It is beloved by many. But we had to take into consideration the health and safety of everyone."

L.A. County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer said: "I have faith that if we continue to make these difficult but necessary decisions now, we will be able to enjoy all that the L.A. County Fair has to offer next year.”

Ticket refunds are available here. If you're having fair withdrawal, we suggest scrolling through some rainbow-colored fried foods from last year.


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Descanso Gardens Reopens Today With Timed Entry

The California Poppy (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

The flowers are blooming at Descanso Gardens and, for the first time in weeks, you can enjoy them in person. It's a whole new world out there.

Executive director Juliann Rooke says the biggest coronavirus change is at the botanical garden’s parking area and entrance, where temporary kisoks have been installed for visitors to social distance while waiting to have their tickets scanned for admission.

Important to note: you can’t just show up to the gardens (unless you're a member) -- tickets must be purchased in advance. A limited number of visitors will be allowed in every 30 minutes.

Rooke says face coverings are required to enter Descanso. And there is no sit-down food service, only drinks and snacks to-go. She added that they're being conservative in how many visitors are allowed in the first week of reopening, and may add more ticket availability if all goes well.

May blooms include roses, azaleas, camellias, irises and various California wildflowers.

May 16 and 17 are already sold out, but Monday the 18th is currently available. Tickets are released weekly on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. on the garden's website. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for kids.

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You Don't Have To Worry About Street Sweeping Tickets Until (At Least) June

Because no one likes a parking ticket. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

When Mayor Garcetti first issued the safer-at-home order, he said the city wouldn’t ticket cars in residential neighborhoods that require alternate parking on street sweeping days.

“We still were sweeping the streets, but we weren't going to ticket you simply because you couldn't move a car," he said, "because you needed to be home."

The city is also holding off on ticketing and towing vehicles that are abandoned, oversized, or have expired registration or parking permits.

All of these temporary moratoriums on parking enforcement were supposed to end yesterday, but will now be extended to June 1.

Some regular parking tickets will still be issued, but the mayor said the city is prioritizing tickets for parked cars that are blocking emergency services or curbside pickup zones for newly reopened businesses.


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Morning Briefing: May 16

A surfer walks on the beach in Huntington Beach, California on May 02, 2020. (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

Bumdog Torres is a photographer, a filmmaker and, in his words, a “career homeless bum.”

On the streets by choice, Torres was born and raised in L.A. and moved back to the city in 2014 after traveling the world. In a photo essay exclusive to LAist, Torres explored how the coronavirus is affecting L.A.’s homeless population.

There’s a wide shot of Myisha, smoking a cigarette in the stall of a public bathroom before bedding down there for the night. There’s a close-up of Mark, a former dancer with a trim white beard and lumberjack button-up who lives out of his van. And there’s a distanced shot of Funny Bone and Scotty who, Torres writes, are “usually camera shy,” but relented when offered $5.

Artistic shots of unhoused folks aren’t unheard of in L.A. photography, but Torres’ images are set apart by his unique access and his singular, intimate understanding of his subjects’ lifestyle. The essay tells a story that’s neither sugar-coated nor pitying; through his lens, Torres has scraped away the word “homeless” from his subjects and delivered portraits of people – simply, and not simply at all.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are now 36,259 coronavirus cases and more than 1,750 deaths in L.A. County, plus at least 74,958 cases and 3,052 deaths in California. Worldwide, there are more than 4.5 million cases and over 307,000 deaths.

Healing L.A.: County health officials say social distancing and other precautions have significantly reduced the rate of infection. A federal judge has ordered homeless residents to be moved from under and along freeways and into shelters in a "humane" way. L.A. has launched a program to limit car traffic on residential streets and allow Angelenos to exercise freely.

California Kids: Taking AP tests is already stressful for students – COVID-19 makes it that much worse.

Essential Workers: L.A.'s essential workers are more likely to live in overcrowded housing, putting not only themselves, but also their family members at risk of infection. Many DACA recipients are working through the coronavirus pandemic and helping support family members, but the Supreme Court could soon end their protected status.

Another Kind Of Stay At Home Order: City Council President Nury Martinez has asked Councilmember José Huizar not to attend any more meetings until there’s “legal clarity” regarding his involvement in the city’s “pay-to-play” bribery scheme. #scandal

Money Matters: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state budget proposal calls for a 10% decrease in funding for K-12 in California, and his expansive health care agenda is no longer possible.

Stories To Get You Through: Bumdog Torres, an unhoused photographer, produced a photo essay documenting life while homeless in the time of the coronavirus. AirTalk's regular Filmweek critics share their picks for what to stream at home while theaters are closed.

Your Moment Of Zen

Did you ever really notice how soothing dolphins are? Pro tip for your weekend: look at more dolphin pictures.

Dolphins (!!) in Venice Beach (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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