Violent Vehicle Fire Explosion Causes Severe Injuries to LAFD Firefighters

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Firefighters responded to a semi truck on fire in Wilmington, which sent nine firefighters to the hospital after a compressed natural gas (CNG) tank exploded.



The Los Angeles City Fire Department responded to the 1100 block of North Alameda Street in the Wilmington area of Los Angeles at 6:58 AM on February 15, 2024. The first ten firefighters arrived to find a semi truck, with no trailer attached, on fire. Crews deployed hose lines to address the burning big rig tractor. Six minutes after arriving on scene, the incident took a disastrous turn.

The clean-air CNG-powered truck contained two 100-gallon tanks, pressurized to at least 3,000 psi, which were being exposed to fire. Crews applied water to the flames and nearly completed extinguishment, when catastrophe struck. One of the tanks exploded violently, immediately injuring nine LAFD firefighters. Crews quickly declared a "Mayday" on the radio for "firefighters down." Some of the nearby firefighters were thrown dozens of feet from their location and knocked out temporarily. Some of the less-injured crew members scrambled to help the more severely injured.

Additional units were added to the incident. The first ambulance to arrive was able to fit the three most critical firefighters inside and depart for the local trauma center. Additional LAFD ambulances followed shortly afterward, eventually transporting a total of nine LAFD members, two of them were said to be in "critical condition." Due to the severity of the injuries, one firefighter, a 37-year-old male and nine-year veteran of the department, was air lifted to a burn center for specialty care.

The remnants of the detonated cylinder was found hundreds of feet away. The remaining CNG cylinder shot flames for hours, slowly releasing the flammable gas contents after being damaged. LAFD Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Specialists responded, and crews on scene widened the radius of the "exclusion zone" to 500 feet, to keep responders and bystanders from being injured if a second blast should occur. Nearby neighborhoods and businesses were temporarily advised to remain in their homes, and  later, assisted with evacuating until the second fuel cylinder was removed from the scene. A shelter was established at the Wilmington Senior Center at 1371 Eubank Avenue.

HazMat teams continued monitoring the atmosphere, continually confirming that there was no toxic hazard in the air at any point. LAFD's firefighting robot, "Thermite RS3," responded and was able to apply water via remote control to cool the remaining cylinder, without putting any personnel at risk. Crews continued to keep pedestrians and motorists clear of the site throughout the day, while monitoring the scene.

Overall, over 150 firefighters responded to this emergency incident. We are thankful for all of the thoughts, prayers and support that have been expressed today for our injured members, and are even more thankful that no local residents were injured. This is a good reminder that if you see a fire or other hazard, it is wise to stay well away from it. Had our firefighters not had their full structure fire gear protecting them today, the outcome would have been much worse.

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Member Health Update 1:00PM 2.17.24:

We just received word that the most critically-injured firefighter is now awake, alert, talking, and breathing on his own. In the early hours of the incident, he was intubated (tube placed into the trachea to secure the airway and prevent burn swelling from closing his airway) and connected to a ventilator. He has now been taken off the ventilator and the tube removed (a combination that is one of the interventions that counts as "life support"). He contines to have a long road of recovery ahead. We thank the hospital staff who worked hard to care for this member of our fire family in his time of need.

Member Health Update 11:00AM 2.17.24:

One firefighter, originally transported in critical condition, was discharged from the hospital last night and is resting at home. Our most severely injured firefighter is making progress however remains in 'critical but stable' condition at LA General ICU. The seven firefighters released yesterday remain off duty and are receiving ongoing care for their injuries.

Member Health Update 2.16.24:

All nine firefighters are off duty due to their injuries. Currently, two firefighters remain admitted to the hospital. One of them has been stabilized in the LA General Hospital Burn Center ICU, but remains in critical condition. The other is admitted for observation at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The other seven firefighters have been released from the hospital and will receive on going treatment and support to begin the healing process. The types of injuries include burns, blunt trauma, shrapnel, concussion, and affects to hearing.

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Hospital Press Conference:

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