LOS ANGELES – Seventeen people, including police, were injured when a large explosion struck a neighborhood of Los Angeles on Wednesday night as thousands of pounds of illegal fireworks were confiscated, officials said.
The police said none of the injuries were life-threatening.
The explosion occurred around 7:30 p.m. local time (10:30 a.m. ET) when bombing squad detonated some of the explosives in a vehicle with a containment that was designed to withstand explosions.
“This ship could have safely disposed of this material,” said LAPD boss Michel Moore on Wednesday evening.
“And you’ve seen the resulting damage and catastrophic failure of this containment vehicle,” said Moore.
The explosion destroyed the vehicle, overturned a nearby car, and smashed windows in homes and businesses.
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Three people in the area suffered moderate injuries and three other minor injuries, officials said. Another person was treated on site but not taken to hospital. Nine LAPD officials and an agent from the Federal Office for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) also suffered minor injuries.
Police said around 5,000 pounds of fireworks and explosives were found in a house in the historic South-Central district on Wednesday morning.
A 27-year-old man arrested is charged with bringing explosives from abroad for resale for the weekend of July 4th. He is charged with possession of a destructive device. He could pay additional child hazard charges because his 10-year-old brother lives in the house, Moore said.
The pyrotechnics were of commercial quality, but some were described as improvised explosive devices with simple detonators that were considered more unstable, Moore said.
They were x-rayed and cut open by robots for assessment, he said, and less than 10 pounds were detonated in the bomb squad’s containment ship, which is designed to hold more material.
“Something happened in that containment vehicle that shouldn’t have happened and we don’t know why,” said Moore. “But we want to find out why.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a tweet that he had directed the LAPD to conduct a full investigation “so we can better understand why this happened”.
Officials said it was lucky no one was killed and used the incident to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal fireworks, especially when people trying to sell them store the explosives in residential areas. The ATF will also investigate how the fireworks and explosives were obtained and transported to Los Angeles, as well as the circumstances surrounding the explosion, the police chief said.
In March, two people were killed in a massive fireworks explosion in a house in Ontario, a city about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. Officials said at the time that the explosion caused at least $ 3.2 million in damage.
The Wednesday explosion in Los Angeles comes days before the weekend of July 4th.
In July 2020, the LAPD reported a more than 80 percent increase in calls for illegal fireworks from the previous year and the amount seized by the police had almost doubled, the department said at the time.
This year officials vowed to crack down on illegal fireworks. According to drought monitors, Los Angeles, like most parts of California, is experiencing an extreme drought.
Last week, Los Angeles Attorney Mike Feuer said his office had sent cease and desist letters to Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and others regarding online sales.
Police in South Gate, a city in the Los Angeles area, said last week that they had arrested a man carrying 800 pounds of illegal fireworks and found 1,200 others in a rental car.
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