South L.A. residents displaced by fireworks explosion survey damage to their homes

Local news

After more than a week displaced from their homes, residents were able to assess the damage on Thursday following the explosion that shook a South Los Angeles neighborhood and injured 17 people during what was meant to be a controlled detonation of fireworks by the Los Angeles Police Department.

The June 30 blast in the 700 block of East 27th Street displaced an estimated 75 people from their homes as investigators probed the site to determine why the routine detonation caused an explosion that overturned a car, shattered glass and damaged nearby homes and vehicles.

That day, police were in the area disposing of 5,000 pounds of fireworks, including homemade “coke can-sized” devices with powder and fuses on them. The bomb squad decided the homemade devices were too dangerous to move, and opted to detonate them in the bomb squad’s semi-truck with an iron chamber, according to LAPD.

That was before the “completely unexpected” blast came around 7:30 p.m. 

Resident Bernardo Becerra told KTLA his family was home watching TV when the explosion rang out suddenly. It bent their metal front door and brought down the ceiling, he said.

On Thursday, residents were seen walking through the neighborhood alongside LAPD officers, surveying the damage of the blast. They walked past cars with shattered glass and walls with cracks running through them.

Standing alongside her family in the neighborhood they had to evacuate, Kenia Prieto said she, her husband and three young children had to sleep in their car on the first night after the blast. They were ultimately moved to a hotel, she said

“I just want my family to be safe indoors,” the pregnant mother said. “I want my family to be happy again. It wasn’t an easy situation. It’s hard. We’re basically homeless right now … I just want those who are responsible to do right by my family.”

The explosion raised questions over what went wrong and why the LAPD detonated the fireworks in a populated neighborhood.

Community leaders are now demanding residents of the neighborhood be compensated.

The South Central Neighborhood Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the city to pay financial compensation to those affected by the explosion and provide them with mental health services. It also demanded that those responsible for the decision to detonate the explosives be fired.

Resident Becerra described the distress that lingered days after the explosion, recalling his family screaming when a cup fell over during one of the nights following the frightening ordeal.

“We’re really scared. That’s the truth,” Becerra said.

Federal investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plan to leave the scene of the blast Thursday, the agency told KTLA.

Crews were seen going around damaged homes to make sure they’re safe for residents to return — more than a week after the explosion.

“Our main focus right now is to get these folks back in their homes, and we’re providing all the resources that we can that they need so they can have a safe place to go back and reside,” said James Westbrooks, deputy chief of staff for L.A. City Councilman Curren Price. He added that the councilman will do all he can to make sure the residents are reimbursed for any damages.

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