Thursday, March 27, 2008

News: LAFD - Power Saw Sparked Deadly Explosion?

Power Saw May Have Sparked Deadly Explosion
Power Saw May Have Sparked Deadly Explosion


LAFD officials investigating Wednesday's fatal explosion in Westchester are looking into several possible causes, including whether a power saw being used by their personnel may have ignited the blast that killed one firefighter and critically injured another.

LAFD officials investigating Wednesday's fatal explosion in Westchester are looking into several possible causes, including whether a power saw being used by their personnel may have ignited the blast that killed one firefighter and critically injured another.

Source:ktla.trb.com
Door's blew off during breeching with Rescue Saw?
Firefighters were operating gas powered metal cutting circular saw at time of explosion

task-force-95-helmet+lafd-lodd-explosion
Power Saw May Have Sparked Deadly Explosion
LAFD officials investigating Wednesday's fatal explosion in Westchester are looking into several possible causes, including whether a power saw being used by their personnel may have ignited the blast that killed one firefighter and critically injured another.

Additionally, officials are exploring whether a gas or electrical malfunction of some kind caused the blast.

"We can't rule anything out yet and we have to rule out the other possible causes before we can say definitively say where the problem lies," said Los Angeles City Fire Capt. Armando Hogan.

An eyewitness to the blast said today that he watched as firefighters responding to a report of smoke from a possible fire struggled to open the door to an electrical utility vault next to the Water and Power Community Credit Union in the 8800 block of Sepulveda Boulevard.

Charles Mordi, who owns an employment testing lab business above the credit union, said he called 911 on Wednesday after hearing an explosion up the street. He also saw smoke coming from the utility room.

Within minutes of his call, he said, a firefighter arrived and tried to open the door to the utility room, which was locked. Moments later an engine arrived with the two firefighters. They also tried without success to open the door. One went to the truck and returned with a yellow circular saw.

"As soon he turned it on and put it by the door, that was when the explosion occurred," said Mordi, who said it was immediately clear that the firefighter's injuries were significant. "It threw him almost six feet from where he was standing."

Firefighter Brent A. Lovrien, 35, a 10-year veteran of the department,
Brent+A.+Lovrien-lafd-lodd.jpgwas injured in the blast and died after he was taken to Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center.Anthony+J.+Guzman-injured-lafd-explosion.jpg City Fire Engineer Anthony J. Guzman, 48, an 18-year veteran, was seriously injured; he was taken to UCLA Medical Center in Westwood with multiple fractures and facial trauma, fire officials said in a statement. He was in serious but stable condition late Wednesday following surgery.

Hogan said investigators had not centered on any one theory for the explosion and are still considering about half a dozen possible causes, from electrical problems to natural or methane gas.

Employees of a Quiznos sandwich shop reported that they smelled gas shortly before the incident began Wednesday afternoon, according to DWP officials. Today, fire investigators appeared to be focusing their attention on an electrical panel housed in a utility room that was between Quiznos and the credit union.

Nick Patsaouras, president of the Department of Water and Power commission, said Fire Department officials informed his agency that any spark given off by the saw -- sed by firefighters trying to get into a vault containing electrical meters for nearby businesses -- could have ignited the blast if methane or another gas were already in the air.

"We were told that the saw could have been the problem," Patsaouras said.

Today, a yellow saw similar to the one Mordi described was still in front of the credit union as investigators -- including federal law enforcement officials and representatives from private gas and oil companies -- examined the scene. Yellow caution tape still surrounded much of the block.

About 400 customers were without power by midday today, DWP officials said.

Lovrien and Guzman were among firefighters called to an electrical vault near Sepulveda and La Tijera boulevards at 1:57 p.m. Wednesday after a report of smoke from a possible fire, fire officials said. After they arrived, there was a larger explosion that sent several manhole covers flying, said Ron Myers, spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Initial reports attributed the firefighters' injuries to the projectiles, but authorities now believe the blast inside the building may have been to blame.

A civilian was also injured by the explosion, but was treated and released at the scene, fire officials said.

A rescue helicopter was called in to transport the firefighters to a nearby hospital, Myers said.

A source close to the investigation told The Times on Wednesday that the blast was so powerful it sent one of the firefighters through a wall and into a parking lot.

Deputy Fire Chief Mario Rueda said the firefighters, who were based at nearby Fire Station 95, were investigating a report of smoke and entering the building when the final explosion occurred.

"They were making entry into a metal clad door" on an electrical equipment room, he said.

Stucco and other materials flew out, hitting a nearby fire engine, Rueda said.

Optometrist Kent Ashcraft, who was working in a nearby office, said he heard two blasts. The second was "like a sonic boom. The walls shook," he said. Cheryl Jackson, an optician who works with Ashcraft, said she heard three explosions.

"I had never heard anything that loud," she said of the final blast.

"It's a sad day in Los Angeles," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday. "We lost a firefighter."


A business owner gives an account of Wednesday's explosion in Westchester that killed firefighter Brent Lovrien.
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, , David Zahniser and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
March 28, 2008
Source:
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Fire Department officials investigating Wednesday's fatal explosion in Westchester are looking into several potential causes, including the presence of gas and the possibility that a firefighter's power saw ignited the blast that killed one firefighter and critically injured another, authorities said Thursday.

"Was it an electrical issue, was it a methane issue, was it something that sparked? All that takes looking at evidence to determine," said Los Angeles Fire Capt. Armando Hogan. "We can't rule anything out yet, and we have to rule out the other possible causes before we can say definitively where the problem lies."

While fire investigators remained on the scene late Thursday, city firefighters and friends mourned the death of firefighter Brent A. Lovrien, 35, and sent get-well cards to Engineer Anthony J. Guzman, 48, who was seriously injured in the blast.

Security guards from the Hilton Los Angeles Airport Hotel across the street from Fire Station 95 dropped off two flower arrangements addressed to Guzman and the firefighters as a U.S. flag outside flew at half staff.

Graham Taylor, the hotel's director of safety and security, said the group knew the two firefighters, who often responded to calls at the hotel.

"We're like a big extended family," Taylor said.

Investigators have talked by phone with the state fire marshal and governor's offices, and the governor sent a representative to Los Angeles. A forensic investigator is also coming from Maryland.

As investigators searched for the cause of the blast Thursday, witnesses recounted hearing three distinct explosions, the last one being the fatal one, shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Charles Mordi said he watched as firefighters responded to a report of smoke coming from manhole covers. He then watched firefighters struggling to open the door to an electrical vault next to the Water and Power Community Credit Union in the 8800 block of Sepulveda Boulevard.

Mordi, who owns an employment testing business above the credit union, said he called 911 after hearing an explosion up the street. He also saw smoke coming from the utility room.

Within minutes of his call, he said, a firefighter arrived and tried to open the door to the utility room, which was locked. Moments later, an engine arrived with the two firefighters. They also tried without success to open the door. One went to the truck and returned with a yellow circular saw.

"As soon as he turned it on and put it by the door, that was when the explosion occurred," Mordi said. "It threw him almost six feet from where he was standing."

Lovrien, a 10-year veteran of the department, was injured in the blast and died after he was taken to Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center. Guzman, an 18-year veteran, was taken to UCLA Medical Center in Westwood with multiple fractures and facial trauma, fire officials said. He remained in serious but stable condition Thursday after surgery.

Employees of a Quiznos sandwich shop reported that they smelled gas shortly before the incident, according to officials with the L.A. County Department of Water and Power. On Thursday, fire investigators appeared to be focusing their attention on an electrical panel housed in a utility room between the Quiznos and the credit union.

Nick Patsaouras, president of the DWP commission, said Fire Department officials told his agency that any spark given off by the saw -- used by firefighters trying to enter the vault containing electrical meters for nearby businesses -- could have ignited the blast if methane or another gas was already in the air.

"We were told that the saw could have been the problem," Patsaouras said.

On Thursday, a yellow saw similar to the one Mordi described was still in front of the credit union as investigators -- including federal law enforcement officials and representatives from private gas and oil companies -- examined the scene. Yellow caution tape still surrounded much of the block.

About 400 customers were still without power Thursday night, DWP officials said.

A civilian was also injured by the explosion but was treated and released at the scene, fire officials said.

Optometrist Kent Ashcraft, who was working in a nearby office, said he heard two blasts. The second was "like a sonic boom. The walls shook," he said. Cheryl Jackson, an optician who works with Ashcraft, said she heard three explosions. "I had never heard anything that loud," she said of the final blast.

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