People were panicking in South Los Angeles recently when an illegal fireworks cache exploded just as police were evacuating residents.
Los Angeles police were called to a home to investigate the storage of illegal fireworks in the 700 block of East 27th Street. They discovered thousands of pounds of illegal commercial fireworks stacked 8 to 10 feet high in boxes.
Officers also located unstable homemade fireworks and makeshift explosive devices with simple fuses. An estimated 40 were roughly the size of soda cans along with 200 smaller objects that were similarly constructed.
An LAPD bomb squad arrived and conducted X-rays to determine their contents. They then transferred the improvised devices into a specialized truck with an iron chamber that’s meant to contain explosive material, according to LAPD Chief Michel Moore.
Police detonated the devices within the vehicle, but apparently there was a “catastrophic failure” with that containment vehicle. The explosion damaged homes and injured 17 people, including police officers. Three civilians were taken to the hospital with serious injuries.
Criscensio Peña, 44, was on 27th and San Pedro streets at his Chenchos Tacos truck when he started filming on his Instagram account to document the explosion.
“People screamed and began running away whichever direction they could,” he said. Initially, people thought it was a car bomb, according to resident Maria Velasquez.
Peña said the blast rocked nearby businesses and shattered storefront windows. His ears were still ringing hours later.
Photojournalist Paul Sanchez was filming the containment unit from about 50 feet away when it exploded.
“It didn’t knock me to the ground, but it was almost like someone had thrown a football-style block,” he told The Times.
Chief Moore said that an investigation will be underway to determine what went wrong with the containment vehicle.
“Clearly protocols were followed and pursued, but something happened in that containment vehicle that should have not happened and we don’t know why,” Chief Moore said. “We intend to find out why.”
The sale of illegal fireworks has been a problem in the city for a while now, as it is a favorite pastime of many Angelinos.
Recently, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer announced that he will be cracking down on the online sale of fireworks, reminding everyone that fireworks are illegal in Los Angeles and pose a dangerous fire hazard for the vulnerable southern California region.
“We are at this moment of intense fire risk because of the ongoing drought, and fireworks pose a grave threat,” he said.