By David Aaro
Published March 17, 2019
A leaky gas tanker burst into flames south of Los Angeles on Sunday, injuring two people and sending a cloud of smoke into the air that could be seen for miles.
The explosion unfolded Sunday morning in Florence. Photos showed one nearby home blackened from the flames and smoke just a few hours later. The fire department tweeted out updates throughout Sunday morning.
Two people were rushed to the hospital with unknown injuries, but there were no deaths. The blast sent a manhole cover flying into the air and flames shooting out of the storm drain, police said in a statement.
Firefighters got a call in the morning about the smell of gas in the air, and when they arrived at the scene they found a 9,000-gallon tanker leaking. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said the gas connected with an ignition source and exploded into flames, forcing the firefighters back and leaving the nearby houses open to the flames.
"Companies put water on the fire, trying to protect two buildings that were exposed to the flames," firefighter Nicolas Prange told Reuters.
At least one family was forced to leave. Some 72 firefighters tried to put out the blaze, and it was finally extinguished after almost two hours. The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) said the fuel type originally was thought to be natural gas, but investigators later determined it was gasoline.
Photos showed the tanker was transformed into a heap of scrap metal after nearly two hours of being on fire.
LAFD Hazardous Materials specialists were on the scene to determine the environmental impact of the blaze and to make sure crews still working near the incident were safe. The LAPD said arson investigators also were dispatched to investigate any possible foul play.
Southern California Gas Co. crews were evaluating whether any of their equipment was damaged in the explosion, according to spokeswoman Melissa Bailey.