ATF Arson And Explosive Investigators Join Inquiry Into Massive Downtown LA Fire That Injured 12 Firefighters
Federal investigators are now looking into an explosion and fire in downtown Los Angeles over the weekend that left a dozen firefighters injured, two of them critically.
Firefighters responded to a fire at Smoke Tokes Wholesale Distribution at 327 E. Boyd St. near the intersection with San Pedro on Saturday. Once inside, an explosion shot canisters of butane and CO2 at least two blocks away,according to a department spokesman.
In all, 11 firefighters were hospitalized and a 12th was treated in the emergency room. As of this evening, four remained there in stable condition.
On the night of the fire, L.A. Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said the incident and number of injuries had traumatized firefighters used to helping others and unaccustomed to having to treat their own.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says it is sending a team of arson and explosives experts, along with special agents from its L.A. field office, at the request of the city. It says its National Response Team can help determine the origin and cause of the fire and also help gather evidence for potential criminal prosecution.
The ATF team was expected to arrive on site Monday. A spokeswoman for the ATF said she would not be able to offer any further details until they could begin assessing the scene.
In an interview with Fox 11 this morning, L.A. Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said it was typical to open a criminal investigation in incidents like this one.
Similar investigative teams were assembled to help with the Da Vinci construction site fire in 2014 and the Conception dive boat fire last year, according to the ATF.
HOW ARE THE FIREFIGHTERS DOING?
Terrazas said one of the firefighters received severe burns and several others received mild to moderate burns.
Capt. Erik Scott, the department's spokesman, told LAist this was "one of the most significant incidents" the department has had to face in recent history.
Video taken at the time and posted to YouTube shows a harrowing scene as firefighters were forced to evacuate single-file across an aerial ladder propped against the building, even as a wall of flames appeared to overtake them.
Five of the firefighters who were hospitalized have since been released.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE BUSINESS?
We still don't know a lot, but Smoke Tokes appears to be a vape and smoke supply shop. Its website lists e-cigarettes, vape pens, hookahs and water pipes, but also items such as butane cases, lighters and torches.
We do know there was another fire connected with the company in September 2016 at a location nearby. That fire, at 330 E. 3rd St., also involved "highly flammable storage that included pressurized flammable gas cylinders, several of which were heard to explode," the fire department reported at the time. It took about 160 firefighters more than two hours to extinguish the blaze.
We left a voicemail at a number associated with Smoke Tokes but have not yet heard back.
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