An investigation was underway Friday after a “thunderous explosion” rocked the basement of a high-rise building in the Financial District of downtown L.A. the previous night, leaving four people with minor injuries, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.
About 161 firefighters responded to 811 Wilshire Blvd. shortly after 10:10 p.m. and found evidence of an explosion and fire on a subterranean level of the 22-story office building, according to an LAFD news release.
In addition to smoke and flames, crews also discovered a large volume of water in the basement, as well as electrical issues.
The sprinklers inside the building kept the fire mostly under control, and firefighters were able to knock down the flames fairly quickly, said Peter Sanders, a spokesman for LAFD.
Four adults were evaluated for minor injuries, according to Sanders.
Two of the patients were taken to a hospital for further evaluation, but were otherwise in good condition. The other two declined transport, he said.
No firefighters were injured.
One man who was eating at the sushi restaurant on the 21st floor of the building described what he saw and heard during the initial blast.
“Everything was normal, and all of a sudden you see this bright light and a then a rocket through the building. You can see the shaking,” Shean Melanmed told KTLA Friday morning.
He said diners got up at that point and began exiting.
“Some people thought it was an explosion outside, or God forbid, it could’ve been a terrorist attack,” Melanmed said.
For the most part, people were calm and relaxed as they walked downstairs, where they experienced fumes, Melanmed said.
The building was “red-tagged” by the Department of Building and Safety. The structure has been deemed temporarily unfit for occupancy until the restoration of electric service and fire safety systems, according to the LAFD release.
The Department of Water and Power was handling local electrical service issues while also working to dewater the flooded basement.
The extent of the damage was not known, and fire officials said the monetary loss has not yet been fully tabulated.
The office building houses the headquarters of the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority. The agency stated in a news release that LAHSA servers were unaffected, and its Homeless Management Information System remained operational.
The agency’s staff was temporarily working off site, while all email communication was interrupted until further notice, according to the release.
At least 12 other businesses in the surrounding area, including possibly one hotel, were left without power for much of Friday.
DWP announced about 4:30 p.m. that power had been restored to 12 buildings but not to 811 Wilshire Blvd. The utility was looking into a way to provide temporary power to the building until repairs can be completed.
A large generator was initially suspected of being involved in the explosion, the LAFD news release stated. Fire investigators later said they were also investigating whether the cause was a transformer explosion.
LADWP said there was extensive damage to the utility’s on-site industrial power station.