Firefighters Tuesday were working to fully extinguish a major emergency fire in a three-story commercial building in downtown Los Angeles that was punctuated by a number of explosions apparently involving “pressurized gas cylinders,” authorities said.
The fire was reported about 1:50 a.m. to the 200 block of East Third Street, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Video from the scene showed flames coming out of one side of the building and what sounded like several small, firecracker-like explosions along with thick, black smoke pouring out of another side of the structure. Flames appeared to spread to debris across the street from the building, the video showed.
Firefighters went into a defensive mode, pouring water on the outside of the building to prevent the flames from spreading to other structures.
“When we arrived on scene, we … quickly were able to see there was evidence of an explosion — rolling steel doors that were pushed outward, canisters that were being strewn across the streets, going city blocks,” LAFD Capt. Erik Scott told Fox11.
The canisters were butane cartridges, according to Fox11.
A total of 150 firefighters were sent to scene to battle the flames — an effort that was continuing several hours afterward. Traffic was routed away from the area as a precaution.
No injuries were reported and no evacuations were ordered.
“From a peak of 150 Firefighters assigned to this major emergency fire during the night, 78 are still on scene, continuing their defensive posture with hose lines to fully extinguish stubborn flames that remain within the century-old 23,790 square-foot, 3-story masonry building that housed five businesses, including two that are believed to have sold ‘smoking supplies’ on the ground level, with two floors of commercial storage above,” Brian Humphrey of the LAFD said in a statement shortly before 8 a.m.
“When firefighters arrived, there was heavy fire visible and a cacophony of small explosions, with a large number of pressurized gas cylinders littering the street,” Humphrey said. “Though no firefighters or civilian were injured by those canisters, or in the ensuing fire, flames from the involved building and/or canisters appear to have ignited tents and debris in a homeless encampment across the street, as well as spread within the structure to involve all three floor of the fire building, ultimately burning through the roof,” Humphrey said.
“Neither the structure nor tenants of a modern 6-story retirement apartment community separated by an alley to the east, sustained any injury or direct impact from the fire, and were allowed to remain in their homes,” Humphrey said.
“The fire was also prevented from spreading to an immediately adjacent unoccupied 5-story center-hallway apartment building to the north, that was undergoing renovation,” Humphrey said. “Firefighters expect to remain at the scene through the day. The cause of the fire remains under active investigation.”
Scott said the fire was similar to the massive commercial building fire on May 16, 2020, at 327 E. Boyd St. in downtown Los Angeles that left a dozen firefighters injured from an explosion.
Six months after that fire, two businesses — Smoke Tokes and Green Buddha — agreed to a plea deal in a criminal case stemming from the blaze.
The two businesses were among those housed in the building on Boyd Street where the fire allegedly started before spreading to an adjacent building, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
Fire crews were inside the building when a “significant explosion” shook the neighborhood around Smoke Tokes Warehouse Distributor, “a supplier for those who make butane honey oil,” Scott said after the fire.
The City Attorney’s Office alleged that illegally stored hazardous materials were found in the building and three other properties owned by the same person.