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Fireball Engulfs LAFD Firefighters Sending Eleven to the Hospital

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

LOS ANGELES – A massive fireball engulfed 11 Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) firefighters while they were battling a commercial building fire, sending all of them to the hospital with burn injuries. 

 

UPDATE: May 20, 4:30PM

Only one LAFD firefighter remains hospitalized at LA County + USC Hospital while additional firefighters continue to receive specialized care at West Hills Hospital Grossman Burn Center.

Donations: The tremendous generosity of those wanting to help our injured LAFD firefighters is both humbling and overwhelming.  We cannot begin to adequately express our gratitude. To provide the most efficient and timely financial assistance to the injured firefighters and their families, while preventing the tax burden inherent with private fundraising platforms, we offer the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Fire Foundation (UFLACFF) as a worthy choice for your donation. (link: https://www.uflac.org/fire-station-9-burned-firefighter-fund/)  UFLACFF is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization which provides financial support to firefighters and their immediate families who suffer economic hardship as a result of illness, injury or death.  There are no overhead costs associated with the foundation, which allows every dollar donated to go directly to our LAFD firefighters/families.

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UPDATE: May 18, 6:15PM

Four LAFD Firefighters remain hospitalized. A total of seven have now been discharged from hospital care.

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UPDATE: May 18, 11:45AM

The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with ATF special agents from the Los Angeles Field Division, were activated to join the investigation of the fire.

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UPDATE: May 18, 11:30AM

Six LAFD Firefighters remain hospitalized in 'stable condition'. A total of five have now been discharged from hospital care.

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UPDATE: May 17, 8:00PM

Three firefighters were released from the hospital this morning and will continue their recovery at home. The two firefighters listed in critical but stable condition who were placed on ventilators to protect their airways, were both removed from the ventilators today. They continue to remain in the intensive care unit for treatment of significant burn injuries.

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On Saturday, May 16, 2020 at 6:26 p.m., the LAFD responded to a reported structure fire at 327 E. Boyd St. in downtown Los Angeles. The first companies arrived on scene within four minutes to find a one-story commercial building with smoke showing. The businesses were not open at the time and firefighters had to force entry with power saws to make access. 

They immediately initiated an aggressive interior fire attack with hose lines, and a truck company was sent to the roof to perform vertical ventilation. As firefighting operations continued, the firefighters encountered increased pressurized smoke and heard a rumbling high-pitched sound. Firefighters identified the changing conditions and immediately started exiting the building and the roof as the situation rapidly deteriorated. 

Shortly thereafter, a significant explosion created a massive fireball that enveloped the firefighters descending from the roof via an aerial ladder. The searing heat melted helmets, burned through protective coats and hoods and blistered and charred nearby fire apparatus. 

A MAYDAY was immediately broadcast over the radio and treatment began on the 11 firefighters that had been caught in the inferno. All of the injured were working at Fire Station 9 on Skid Row, one of the nation’s busiest. Dozens of additional fire and ambulance resources were dispatched to the scene to assist with medical treatment and fire suppression as the blaze continued to spread. 

All 11 firefighters were rapidly transported to LAC+USC Medical Center for treatment. A 12th firefighter was later treated and released at the hospital for a minor extremity injury. All 11 burned firefighters were admitted to the hospital with injuries of varying severity. Thankfully, all are expected to survive and as of the morning of Saturday, May 17, three had already been released from the hospital. 

At the peak of the incident, more than 230 LAFD firefighters were on scene and the Major Emergency blaze was declared extinguished at 8:08 p.m., one hour and 42 minutes after it was reported. LAFD Arson investigators are working in conjunction with their law enforcement partners to investigate the cause and origin of the fire, as well as the nature of the business at the incident address. 

Additional information regarding this incident will be provided in the coming days. 

Photo by Chris Conkle

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