Four of 11 Los Angeles firefighters injured in a reported explosion in a downtown commercial building Saturday evening have been admitted to the USC Medical Center burn ward intensive care unit, two of them on ventilators.
A fire department spokesman told reporters that of the four in ICU, three are listed in critical condition with non-life-threatening injuries, while the fourth is in serious condition.
All 11 firefighters are being held overnight at the hospital for observation, suffering burns of varying degrees, the spokesman said.
LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazus, meeting with reporters outside the hospital, described being notified of the emergency as “the kind of call I always dread.”
At 6:26 p.m., dispatch learned of a fire in a one-story commercial building occupied by several businesses, including a company specializing in distributing smoke shop products. Chief Terrazus said firefighters arrived to find moderate smoke.
Also found were small canisters of butane scattered in the street, he said.
Initiating “an aggressive attack on the seat of the fire,” firefighters arriving with Engine Company Nine made an interior attack through the front of the building while other firefighters climbed to the roof and performed ventilation, Terrazus said.
Inside, firefighters grew concerned about rising smoke pressure and heat. As they moved to exit the building what has been described as either an explosion or flashover suddenly overtook them, Terrazus said.
“Firefighters came down the ladder from the roof with their coats on fire,” he said.
Within minutes of a mayday call being issued all 11firefighter injured were transported to the hospital. Meanwhile, the fire spread to other building nearby. More than 230 firefighters on scene at the height of the continuing emergency moved into a defensive posture.