At least 7 Los Angeles firefighters injured in explosion of burning truck’s fuel tank


LOS ANGELES (AP) — A burning truck’s fuel tank exploded on Thursday while Los Angeles firefighters were trying to battle the blaze, injuring seven of them, including two critically, fire officials said. An additional two injured victims were reported by the local public health agency.

Los Angeles County Health Services said a total of nine victims were initially brought to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. It was not immediately clear whether the additional two victims were firefighters or civilians.

One of the two critically injured victims was transferred to Los Angeles General Medical Center, which has a burn unit. The other seven firefighters were being treated for “general injuries,” Health Services said in a statement. It added that privacy laws prevented release of further information.

The explosion of one of the truck’s natural gas tanks occurred shortly before 7 a.m. in the Wilmington neighborhood, fire department spokesperson Nicholas Prange said in an interview. Prange did not have information on the additional two victims.

In TV news helicopter video, discarded firefighting gear could be seen at the site where the injured crew members were initially treated.

The vehicle was the tractor portion of a big rig and was fueled by compressed natural gas carried in two 100-gallon (378-liter) tanks, one of which exploded, said fire Capt. Erik Scott, also a department spokesperson.

“That explosion was significant,” he said. “The ball of flame was as high as these telephone poles, and it actually did explode one of the transformers nearby.”

The truck was completely destroyed, and firefighters stayed well back as a small flame continued to burn in the mangled wreckage, the helicopter footage showed. Scott said the second fuel tank was “still off-gassing and therefore there’s a minor threat.”

The truck driver’s status remained unknown, and other key details of the incident had yet to be learned, Scott said.

“The surrounding circumstances that led up to this tragic incident are still too new,” he said.

The blast occurred adjacent to an industrial area separated from a neighborhood by a wide street and a rail line.

Wilmington is 18 miles (29 kilometers) south of downtown, near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

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