Federal Investigators Join Probe of Downtown LA Blast That Injured 12 Firefighters

Twelve firefighters were injured Saturday in the fire and explosion at a downtown Los Angeles business. They were forced to escape from the roof through a ball of flames.


What to Know

  • Twelve firefighters were injured Saturday after they were surrounded by smoke and flames at a burning downtown LA building.
  • Video shows the firefighters climbing down from the roof as a ball of flames rises above the buidling.
  • An investigation in the fire and explosion includes an ATF National Response Team.

Four of the 12 firefighters injured in a fire and powerful explosion Saturday in downtown Los Angeles remained hospitalized Tuesday morning as investigators attempt to piece together events leading up to the blast.

The firefighters were forced to crawl down a ladder from the roof of the business as they were surrounded by a ball of smoke and flames. All are expected to survive.

A witness describes the fire and smoke billowing from a burning downtown Los Angeles building Saturday May 16, 2020. Credit: Vance Hilderman

The victims suffered first- to third-degree burns.

Three firefighters were released Sunday from the hospital. Four more firefighters were released from the hospital since then, the fire department said early Monday in a tweet.

Another was treated Saturday for minor injuries. 

Police and fire investigators are attempting to piece together the chain of events that led to Saturday’s fire and explosion, which rattled a widespread part of downtown Los Angeles south of Little Tokyo. Witness videos showed the fireball rising above buildings in the area and captured staccato popping sounds.

The National Response Team of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was deployed as part of the investigation. They're expected to arrive Monday at the site of the burned out building.

Drone footage captured the explosion that gutted a business and injured 12 firefighters in downtown Los Angeles. The firefighters are recovering after they escaped the burning building over the weekend.

Firefighters said Saturday that the business contained items, like butane canisters, commonly used in the manufacture of honey oil, which is extracted from marijuana using volatile and flammable substances. Butane is an odorless gas used in the process.

The manufacture of honey is illegal in California. 

LAFD Capt. Erik Scott described the business as a suppliers for those who make honey oil.

NBC has attempted to contact the individual listed as the owner of the business. 

There is no indication that the business displayed fire warning placards that indicate what kind of potentially hazardous or flammable items are in a building, multiple law enforcement sources told NBC4.

The explosion happened around 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the single-story building identified as Smokes and Tokes. Firefighters were on the roof at the time.

Twelve firefighters were injured in an explosion and a fire in downtown Los Angeles. Eric Leonard reported on NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 17, 2020.

“There was a significant explosion that caused a mayday report,” Scott said.

The firefighters were awake and alert when they arrived at the hospital, Dr. Marc Eckstein, medical director for the LAFD and a physician at LA County-USC Medical Center. Two were placed on ventilators due to smoke inhalation and for were admitted to the intense care unit for burns. 

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