LOS ANGELES — Sixteen people, including police, were hurt when a large explosion rocked a Los Angeles neighborhood Wednesday evening as thousands of pounds of illegal fireworks were being seized, officials said.
Three residents suffered serious injuries in the blast at 6 p.m., the fire department said.
Nine Los Angeles Police Department officers, one federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent, and three other people sustained minor injuries, fire officials said.
The LAPD tweeted that bomb squad officers were seizing more than 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks. Some of the fireworks were in the process of being detonated when the blast happened, multiple officials familiar with the incident told NBC News.
“Some of the fireworks were being stored in our Bomb Squad trailer as a precautionary measure,” the LAPD tweeted. “Unknown at this time what caused an explosion.”
The blast damaged nearby businesses, structures and cars, officials said.
News helicopter footage showed what appeared to a bomb squad disposal unit with heavy damage in the Historic South-Central neighborhood of Los Angeles, south of downtown. The windows of a laundromat were shattered.
The Los Angeles Fire Department said several structures sustained varying levels of damage. Search and rescue members were evaluating the structural integrity of the most heavily damaged building.
In March, a massive fireworks explosion at a house in Ontario, a city about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, killed two people. Officials said at the time that the blast caused at least $3.2 million in damage.
Wednesday’s explosion in Los Angeles comes days before the July 4th weekend.
In July 2020, the LAPD reported a more than 80 percent increase in calls about illegal fireworks from the year before and the amount seized by police more than doubled, the department said at the time.
This year, officials have vowed to crack down on illegal fireworks. Los Angeles, like most of California, is under an extreme drought, according to drought monitors.
Last week, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said his office sent cease and desist letters to Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and others over online sales.
Police in South Gate, a city in the Los Angeles region, said last week that it arrested a man with 800 pounds of illegal fireworks and found 1,200 more in a rental truck.
Source : NBC News