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Criminal investigation launched into Los Angeles warehouse explosion

Eleven firefighters were injured after walking into a burning building that housed highly flammable butane.

LOS ANGELES — Authorities have launched a criminal investigation into a warehouse explosion in downtown Los Angeles that injured 11 firefighters Saturday, multiple law enforcement sources said.

Investigators with the city's fire and police departments — as well as the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — are looking into a business connected to the warehouse, the sources said.

The business, Smoke Tokes, is reported to be a supplier for butane honey oil, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. An initial assessment found that the company might be a wholesaler of products used to make concentrated cannabis, a process that usually requires the use of highly flammable butane.

The sources said there were no placards outside the warehouse warning firefighters about the butane.

City officials described Smoke Tokes as a "ghost business" because it doesn't appear in local regulatory records. The company is incorporated as a limited liability company with the state, the officials said, but the city has no record of it.

Multiple attempts to reach the man listed in state records as the company's owner were unsuccessful.

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The fire, in Los Angeles' Toy District, was reported at 6:26 p.m. After firefighters arrived, there were an explosion and a mayday call that the blaze may have spread to multiple buildings. Images showed firefighters crawling through the mammoth flames to try to escape.

"As that butane ignited, it blew out of that commercial building like a blowtorch," said Eric Scott, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said late Saturday that the 11 firefighters "are on the road to recovery."