LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – More than 300 misdemeanor charges have been filed against the owner of four downtown Los Angeles buildings and his business tenants following a massive explosion in May which wounded 12 firefighters.
L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer reported Friday that the charges were filed in connection with the May 16 explosion at 327 East Boyd St. in the Toy District.
The explosion occurred as L.A. city firefighters were battling flames at the building, which housed a butane honey oil supplier called Smoke Tokes, along with two other marijuana-related businesses, Green Buddha and Bio Hazard.
The L.A. Fire Department said the heat from the fire was so intense that it melted through helmets and charred some of the fire engines. 12 firefighters suffered serious to critical injuries, but all survived.
One of the firefighters, Stephen Osterberg, told CBSLA in an interview Wednesday that he suffered third-degree burns on 30% of his body.
The owner of the building where the explosion occurred, Steve Sungho Lee, has been charged with 135 violations, Feuer reported.
The charges against Lee are also in relation to three other downtown buildings he owns, including the adjacent 325 East Boyd St., which caught fire as a result of the explosion and also housed operations for Green Buddha and Bio Hazard, the city attorney said.
Furthermore, Lee was charged for violations at two buildings he owns at 309 South San Pedro St. and 5719 South Avalon Blvd.
“Because of this tremendous team effort, we’re one step closer to holding accountable those individuals that may have contributed to this incident,” said LAFD Capt. Erik Scott.
All four of Lee’s buildings illegally store hazardous materials, Feuer alleges.
The operators of Smoke Tokes were charged with 36 violations, Green Buddha with 36 counts and Bio Hazard with 50 counts. No names were released.
Lee faces a maximum sentence of 68 years in jail. The owners of Smoke Tokes, Bio Hazard and Green Buddha could face more than 41 years in jail.
Arraignments for all cases are scheduled for Nov. 19.
“The fire and explosion that ripped through the Boyd Street property caused our firefighters great suffering—and came perilously close to costing their lives,” said Feuer in a statement. “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,” said Feuer. “The public is counting on us to protect them from a potential catastrophe.”