Gas Explosion Shatters Fairfax Store; 23 Hurt

Gas Explosion Shatters Fairfax Store; 23 Hurt by George Ramos and Steve Harvey, March 25, 1985, Los Angeles Times
At least 23 people were injured and two others were reported missing Sunday when a mysterious gas explosion shattered walls and windows of a discount clothing store in the Fairfax District. Fires begun by the explosion continued to burn–and spread–as the night hours passed, and a spokesman for the Southern California Gas Company said it was possible that the flames were fueled by gas from a long-abandoned oil field in the vicinity. The injured were taken by ambulance to hospitals in the vicinity, where two were reported in critical condition, including one man who had second- and third-degree burns over 70% of his body. Two employees of the Ross Dress for Less Store, in the 6200 block of West 3rd Street, could not be accounted for, and firefighters spent five hours searching for them in the tangle of charred clothing, smashed fixtures and broken wiring that remained inside the building. The searchers were temporarily driven from the building at 9 p.m., when two smaller explosions under the structure opened fiery cracks in the earth nearby, but they returned 30 minutes later. Meanwhile, gas continued to seep to the surface–and burst into flame–in a steady progression across the parking lot and to the edge of 3rd Street. By late evening, seepage of gas in the area across the street from the store had become so concentrated that the command post was relocated another 200 feet to the north. … In any case, authorities agreed that it was apparently impossible to control the supply of gas feeding the flames that continued to spurt from cracks in the earth and from various parts of the smashed store building. … Automobiles in the parking lot were wrecked–their windows cracked and their paint blistered–by the explosion and fire, and the shock wave from the blast smashed windows as far as three blocks away. Also severely damaged were a beauty shop, bank, cafeteria, fish market, variety store and paint store nearby. … Wells explained that a buildup of gas fumes had been detected in the basement of the K Mart discount store nearby, and that further blasts might be expected unless the source of the deadly fumes could be located.

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