LOS ANGELES — Eleven firefighters were injured, three critically, when an explosion erupted during a fire Saturday downtown, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.
An additional firefighter was in serious condition, Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "Good news is everybody’s going to make it," he said.
LAFD medical director Marc Eckstein said four of the firefighters were in an intensive care burn unit at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, a hospital affiliated with the University of Southern California. Two of them were on ventilators, he said.
An initial assessment found the business might be a wholesaler of products used to make concentrated cannabis, a process that usually requires the use of highly flammable butane.
"The occupancy was doing business as Smoke Tokes Wholesale Distributor, reportedly a supplier for those who make butane honey oil," the LAFD said.
"There is butane in that building," Chief Ralph Terrazas said late Saturday. "We saw butane [canisters] out on the street."
"My thoughts are with our brave @LAFD firefighters," Garcetti tweeted Saturday evening. "Closely tracking this situation as we continue to get more information."
Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Twitter, "Grateful for the brave firefighters and first responders on the scene battling these flames tonight."
The first report of a fire was recorded at 6:26 p.m., according to the department.
After firefighters arrived, an explosion was reported, a "mayday" call went out and the blaze might have spread to "multiple buildings," according to a subsequent LAFD statement.
Terrazas said "things didn’t seem right" to the senior official at the scene, who told the first responders to retreat.
"The smoke pressure was escalating, the heat was increasing," he said.
A witness described the exodus to officials, Terrazas said. "Our firefighters came down the aerialladder from the roof with their turnout coats on fire," he said.
Pamela Sisson, 43, was on her way to her home in the nearby Arts District when she spotted the fire and used her cellphone to capture video.
"It started to feel a little bit dangerous because ash was coming down," she said. "It was becoming increasingly dangerous to stay anywhere near there."
The blaze was put out in less than two hours, the department said. The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Andrew Blankstein reported from Los Angeles and Dennis Romero from San Diego.