An explosion and significant fire at a cannabis extraction facility in Los Angeles, US killed two people and seriously injured two others on October 18. Though the business was a legal enterprise, the operation inside appeared to be illegal, as it did not adhere to established permitting processes and safety requirements, the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) said in a statement.
The LAFD was called to the scene in the west San Fernando Valley at 12:18 local time where they found a significant fire and flames spreading through the roof of the single storey building. After circling the scene to gain situation awareness, LAFD crews found three men with severe burn injuries. Two were in critical condition while the other was in a serious condition. All were taken to local hospitals for treatment, however one of them later died.
An LAFD statement said that while attending the scene, crews attempted to battle the rapidly spreading flames and heard several explosions occurring within the building. Fire crews managed to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby premises and managed to extinguish the flames after 75 minutes.
Firefighters remained active through the night extinguishing hotspots and minimising hazards at the structurally compromised building with the help of LAFD’s robotic firefighting vehicle and heavy equipment, the fire department said.
During a systematic search of the site on October 19, firefighters discovered the remains of an adult male. Scientific testing of materials inside the building of fire origin yielded positive results for hemp, and it appears that the operation inside involved the extraction from hemp, not dissimilar to that used in the Butane Honey Oil extraction process, the LAFD said.
Similar incidents involving cannabis extraction explosions have occurred in the US before, including Los Angeles. In May 2020, an explosion in downtown Los Angeles injured 12 firefighters after they responded to a fire at a cannabis oil factory. Over 230 firefighters in total responded to the incident after a “mayday” call was put out when first responders arrived at the scene to find firefighters retreating from the building on fire and suffering from severe burns.
Elsewhere, a producer of medical marijuana was fined $142,000 (£102,000) in April 2021 after an explosion injured two people at its facility in Santa Fe in October 2020. The New Mexico Environment Department fined New MexiCann Natural Medicine on April 14 for six worker safety violations, including failing to implement controls for flammable vapours and ignition sources, and unsafe handling of hazardous chemicals.