Preliminary reports show a May 16 fire that injured 12 firefighters was caused by Smoke Tokes’ excessive storage of butane and hash oil, according to Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas.
But a team consisting of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Major Crimes Division; the fire department’s Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is still looking into the matter.
“Everything is under investigation by our team,” Terrazas said.
As of May 18, experts have mobilized and begun processing for evidence. Along with the experts is an investigative lead element.
“Both components coordinate daily to ensure investigative continuity,” ATF spokeswoman Ginger Colburn said.
The LAFD and the city of Los Angeles are working to ensure Smoke Tokes and other businesses alike follow safe business practices, like proper storage and signage.
Furthermore, LAFD fire prevention inspectors will begin doing annual inspections, and field companies and fire engines will conduct windshield surveys. Based on the outcomes of these inspections and surveys, businesses that are not in the LAFD’s system will be identified and inspected.
“We’re going to uncover everything we can. We’re going to take as much information so we can learn from this so we can prevent this from happening in the future,” Terrazas said.
LAFD’s Station 9 on Skid Row received a call about the fire at 6:26 p.m. May 16. Firefighters arrived on scene at the wholesale shop, located at 327 E. Boyd Street on Bong Row in Downtown Los Angeles, within 4 minutes and reported smoke coming from a one-story commercial building.
The firefighters began what is known as an aggressive fire attack in an offensive mode, which includes forcing entry with power saws, extinguishing the fire with hose lines and performing vertical ventilation with truck companies.
On the roof and inside the building, 12 firefighters saw thick smoke and heard a piercing sound, so they made for the exits before an explosion engulfed them. The firefighters escaped with melted helmets and burnt coats and hoods, though the ones who were close were blistered and charred.
As a result, the situation was updated to the major emergency category, 230 additional firefighters were dispatched and a defensive posture for a medical branch was initiated.
The fire was extinguished at 8:08 p.m.
Twelve of the firefighters were transported to the LAC+USC Medical Center.
“Four will be going to the burn intensive care unit, two are on ventilators for swelling of their airways, and the others have varying degrees of burns, ranging from very serious to moderate to minor,” described Dr. Marc Eckstein, the LAFD medical director and an attending physician at the USC Medical Center.
“Things could’ve been so much worse,” he added, assuring, “The firefighters are getting outstanding care.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti remains positive.
“The good news is everyone’s going to make it,” Garcetti said.