ONTARIO (CBSLA) — Many unanswered questions remained after two people were killed Tuesday when a large cache of fireworks stored inside an Ontario home exploded, rattling the neighborhood and prompting an evacuation order that remained in place Wednesday.
The multiple blasts occurred in the area of San Antonio Avenue and Maple Street beginning at around 12:30 p.m. and sent debris covering 80 properties.
“There was a large explosion, within about two properties, and that debris field went to about 80 properties that we need to check today,” Ontario Fire Department Chief Ray Gayk said at a news conference Wednesday.
Gayk reported Tuesday that two people were killed in the explosion and three others suffered minor injuries, but did not need to be hospitalized.
At Wednesday’s briefing, Ontario Police Chief Mike Lorenz disclosed that two cousins, 38-year-old Alex Paez and 20-year-old Ceasar Paez, were missing. He could not immediately confirm if they are the two people that were initially reported dead.
A dog was also found dead on the property. Another two horses were rescued. It’s unclear how many animals may be missing.
Two homes were destroyed, both located on the same property. On Wednesday morning, investigators still could not even enter the home where the explosion originated because it may still contain unexploded fireworks.
“I’ve been in the fire service for 30 years I’ve never seen an incident like this, I’ve never responded to an incident like this,” Gayk said Wednesday.
An evacuation order was in place for dozens of residents who live in the area bordered by West Francis Street and West Maple Avenue, and between Fern Avenue and San Antonio Avenue.
Two-dozen bomb technicians from several federal and local agencies, including the FBI and ATF, were combing through the debris field Wednesday, which may still contain unexploded fireworks, necessitating the need to possibly keep the evacuation order in place for several days.
“After we’ve cleared the area of any unexploded ordnance, fireworks, any dangerous munitions, we’re gonna start the investigation part of this incident,” Gayk said Wednesday.
A temporary Care and Reception Center was established at the De Anza Community Center, located at 1405 S. Fern Ave. Displaced residents were being given hotel vouchers.
A CBSLA employee who lives nearby reported that his entire house shook and that there was smoke in the air from it. A Twitter user posted a video of the explosion saying, “Someone’s firework stack went off in Ontario shook our whole neighborhood.”
— michele gile (@michelegiletv) March 16, 2021
Someone’s firework stack went off in Ontario shook our whole neighborhood pic.twitter.com/LmUrtgl0oK
— pms♑️ (@Prudencepms) March 16, 2021
Stunned residents captured the frightening scene Tuesday afternoon, as fireworks exploded into a ball of black and then white smoke.
“My leg caught fire,” Arlene Fiero, a neighbor of the home, said. “Part of my house fell on me, part of the door and part of the wall, it just collapsed from the explosion.”
Fiero was filming with her cell phone after the first blast to make sure her family members were OK. That’s when the second, larger, explosion happened.
“It just shook everything,” said Samantha Soliz. “It shook the house, it shook me that’s for sure. We were just so scared. We were going to leave.”
Ontario police had received numerous calls about illegal fireworks in the neighborhood, but not at that specific house. Neighbors said fireworks are set off at all hours of the day and night which triggers car alarms.
“It sounded like explosions or anything and then it just shook our whole house,” said witness Ally Conant. “It was like an earthquake, I thought. And then she came running in the restroom and we were just like ‘What’s going on?’ and just freaking out. Total anxiety.”
The force of the explosion shattered dozens of windows at nearby homes and apartments.
“I cleaned up everything on the inside already but…it was worse than this,” said Ontario resident Allyssa Boroluzzi while showing the broken glass on the ground outside of her apartment.
Boroluzzi was inside her unit with her three young children at the time of the blast.
She and other neighbors said they have complained to police about constant explosions in the neighborhood that sounds like bombs going off.
“We were sitting inside and all we heard was, at first an explosion that was not so big, but it felt like an earthquake because everything shook,” she said. “It was quiet for about a minute or two but then that’s when the big explosion happened and then all the windows shattered.”
Detectives were seen questioning a group of people who walked out of the secure area, including men, women and children. Local and federal investigators were searching for any unexploded materials Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Evacuation orders are in place in Ontario after a series of explosions yesterday killed two people, injured three and destroyed a home. Authorities say a huge fireworks supply ignited and fear more possible explosions. 45 people were displaced. @CBSLA pic.twitter.com/uJqYCo4K9g
— Kara Finnstrom (@KaraFinnstrom) March 17, 2021