LA Building Owner Faces Charges Over Massive Explosion, Blaze

The Los Angeles skyline. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer filed criminal charges Friday against the owners and operators of four downtown LA buildings over safety violations that led to a massive blaze that injured a dozen responding firefighters. 

The structure fire near LA’s Little Tokyo neighborhood on May 16 sparked a massive explosion that rumbled the community and blackened fire engines responding to the emergency.

Ash rained from the sky as more than 240 firefighters battled the blaze that spread to buildings along Boyd Street, near LA’s Skid Row.

The four buildings damaged in the blaze were found to have illegally stored hazardous materials, according to the criminal charges. 

Building owner Steve Sungho Lee was charged with 36 counts involving violations at 327 Boyd Street and 50 counts stemming from violations at 325 Boyd Street.

Lee has also been charged with 46 additional counts over violations at 309 South San Pedro and 3 more counts involving violations at 5719 South Avalon.

The buildings were also the location for businesses Smoke Totes, Green Buddha and Bio Hazard.

The charges filed Friday come after Feuer, the Los Angeles Fire Department and LA Police Department investigated the owners, their buildings and three businesses over fire code violations. 

Feuer said in a statement Friday the criminal charges are necessary to protect residents from preventable structure fires in the future.

“The fire and explosion that ripped through the Boyd Street property caused our firefighters great suffering and came perilously close to costing their lives,” Feuer said. “We’ll do everything we can to hold the owners and operators of buildings and businesses responsible for complying with our fire and safety codes.”

LA Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said in a statement the blaze, also called the Boyd Street fire, could have become a potentially deadly catastrophe for the city.

When the massive explosion occurred, several firefighters were inside of and on the roofs of damaged buildings.

“Thanks to the work of our arson investigators, the fire prevention bureau, the LAPD and the city attorney’s office, we are one step closer to holding accountable the individuals who may have contributed to the circumstances that precipitated this fire and, hopefully, be able to prevent similar incidents in the future,” Terrazas said. 

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