The Charlotte Observer
Two people were killed on Monday in a fire at an alleged illegal marijuana grow operation in Los Angeles, officials say.
The Los Angeles Fire Department received reports of the warehouse fire from a paramedic crew that passed by it at around 12:18 p.m. Within moments of the report being received, the fire had already seared through the roof of the building, the fire department said in a news release.
The firefighters who arrived at the scene saw with three severely burned people running out of the building while calling out a fourth person’s name, Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Erik Scott told KTLA.
The three burn victims were hospitalized, and one of them, who suffered injuries to 90% of his body, died at the hospital, KTLA reported. The other two are still hospitalized, one in serious condition and the other in critical condition.
Fire crews discovered a person’s body inside the building during a search of the premises on Tuesday morning, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The fire spread rapidly throughout the building and triggered multiple explosions. It took 150 firefighters slightly over an hour to extinguish the blaze, and fire crews continued to extinguish hotspots throughout the night, according to the fire department’s release.
Investigators suspect the building may have been home to an illegal marijuana grow operation based on testing of materials from inside the building, which revealed positive results for hemp, the release said.
The operation that may have occurred in the building would have been illegal because it “did not adhere to established permitting processes and safety requirements,” according to the release.
The fire department, Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force are still investigating what was going on at the building, the release said.
Workers close to the area said they could smell marijuana at the industrial park where the building was located, The Los Angeles Times reported.
“They kept to themselves, but you would walk by the building and you could just smell the marijuana vapors that were so strong coming from there,” Ralph Lliteras, the former co-owner of a nearby business, told The Los Angeles Times.
The operation inside the building seemed to involve the extraction of hemp, which requires heat, pressure and combustible chemicals, the fire department said.
“It’s a very volatile process,” Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey told The Los Angeles Times. “The business at the location was legal, but the work that was being performed there was not.”
Firefighters also found six burned vehicles parked outside the building but have accounted for only five people so far. The department is expected to use a K-9 unit to continue searching the premises and ensure that no one else is still inside, KTLA reported.