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More Than 300 Charges Filed In Downtown LA Explosion And Fire That Injured 12 Firefighters

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A Los Angeles Fire Department Public Information Officer wearing a facemask speaks on the phone after a fire in a single-story commercial building sparked an explosion in downtown L.A.'s Toy District on May 16, 2020. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)
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The L.A. City Attorney's Office has filed more than 300 criminal charges following an explosion and large fire in downtown L.A.'s Toy District in May that left 12 firefighters injured.

Among the allegations stemming from the May 16 incident are fire code and safety violations at four buildings and three businesses.

City Attorney Mike Feuer laid out the charges in an announcement today:

Maximum penalties for [building owner] Steve Sungho Lee are up to 68 years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines. Maximum penalties for Smoke Tokes include up to 41.5 years in jail as well as thousands of dollars in fines. The maximum penalties for Bio Hazard and Green Buddha include up to 43.5 years in jail and thousands of dollars in files.

"The fire and explosion that ripped through the Boyd Street property caused our firefighters great suffering," Feuer said in a statement, "and came perilously close to costing their lives."
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An L.A. Fire Department spokesman described the fire and explosion to LAist at the time as "one of the most significant incidents that our department has gone to in recent history." LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said that the incident traumatized firefighters.

The fire apparently started at 327 Boyd Street, home to three marijuana-related businesses: Smoke Tokes, Green Buddha, and Bio Hazard. It quickly spread to another of owner Steve Sungho Lee's buildings. He has been charged with 86 counts for violations at those addresses.

Two other buildings owned by Lee have also been found in violation, which Lee faces 49 additional charges for. All four properties were found to have illegal storage of hazardous materials, according to the City Attorney's Office. Arraignment in all cases is scheduled for Nov. 19.

LAist previously reported that Smoke Tokes Wholesale Distribution appears to have been a supplier of butane, which is used to make butane honey oil, or hash oil.

There was another fire in 2016 at another Smoke Tokes location that took two hours to extinguish, using about 160 firefighters.

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Owner Lee has previously said that he uses sprinklers outside at least one of his businesses to clear the sidewalks of homeless encampments. He owns dozens of properties in the Industrial District, as well as properties in South L.A. Lee has previously pointed to a record of trying to help the poor, with some of his buildings occupied by nonprofit and government tenants.

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