Boyle Heights

Explosive Fire in Boyle Heights Building Filled with E-Cigarettes Prompts Hazmat Response

"The biggest challenge was, they had butane containers inside that were being launched like missiles," one firefighter told NBC4.

NBC Universal, Inc.

A large, dangerous and explosive fire sparked in a building filled with nicotine, e-cigarettes and butane early Friday morning, prompting a hazardous materials response from the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The building was determined to be a total loss even before firefighters had finished extinguishing the flames around 6 a.m., when flames could still be seen billowing from the top of the roof in Boyle Heights.

The fire began around 1:30 a.m. on Friday, and firefighters responded to the commercial building on East 12th Street.

Flames were shooting through the roof when firefighters arrived, and the building was fully engulfed in fire.

The dangerous situation was made worse by the items inside the building -- e-cigarettes, cigarettes and four tons of liquid nicotine.

"The biggest challenge was, they had butane containers inside that were being launched like missiles," said Assistant Chief Jaime Moore of the LAFD. "So our firefighters, having been exposed to these types of fires, took a defensive approach. They used ladder pipes to be able to extinguish this fire."

The butane canisters, about the size of a can of hairspray, were raining down on the firefighters and flying all over the air. Canisters could be seen scattered along the street outside the building later Friday morning, along with other debris.

A major concern for firefighters battling the blaze was keeping the fire from another building about two doors away in the commercial and industrial neighborhood. That building has ammunition from World War II. Thankfully, it remained flame-free.

It took about 125 firefighters about an hour and a half to declare a knockdown on the fire. The LAFD said firefighters will stay in the area all day long, monitoring air quality and making sure everything is cleaned up and cleared out.

Arson investigators will be on scene to try and determine what began the fire.

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