Three Left Homeless Following Van Nuys Explosion

Saturday, May 13, 2006 |

On Saturday, May 13, 2006 at 7:06 AM, four Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, two LAFD Rescue Ambulances, one Urban Search and Rescue Unit, one EMS Battalion Captain and one Battalion Chief Officer Command Team, under the direction of Battalion Chief Patrick Butler responded to a reported explosion at 13740 West Vanowen Street in Van Nuys.

First units on the scene reported a three-story garden style apartment building with two floors of apartments over garages and occupants of the building indicating that an explosion had occurred in one unit on the top floor.

Further investigation by Firefighters revealed that four "bug bombs" that were being used to exterminate pests in the unit had exploded. The force of the explosion compromised the walls and roof of the unit and slightly damaged two adjacent apartments and a vacant unit below the apartment where the explosion occurred.

The Incident Commander immediately requested an LAFD Urban Search and Rescue Team and Inspectors from the City's Department of Building and Safety to respond to the scene to evaluate the stability of the structure.

The Southern California Gas Company was also requested due to the magnitude of the explosion and to assist with any natural gas problems that may have resulted from the explosion.

After a thorough assessment by the Department of Building and Safety and the LAFD Urban Search and Rescue Team, it was determined that only the unit where the explosion had occurred was unsafe to occupy and was subsequently 'Red Tagged' as unfir for occupancy.

Approximately nineteen occupants were initially evacuated from the building as a safety precaution, but, only the three occupants of the involved unit were displaced and assisted by the American Red Cross with placement.

The remaining occupants were allowed to return to their apartments after it was determined that the other units had not been compromised by the explosion.

There was no fire or injuries and the precise cause of the explosion remains under investigation.


Submitted by James "Jim" R. Wells, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department

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Steve Huston said...

Why do we as a community put press out that says "Family left homeless by fire....." but leave out "Family left homeless beacause they can't pay the rent" or "Family left homeless, Dad lost job" Do you really think that's fair?

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Mr. Huston:

Thanks for the note. We appreciate you reading our blog and offering comments that are specific to the individual post.

Though my colleague wrote the report, I take full responsibility for the headline, which as you mention, may draw thoughtful debate or introspection among readers. That people take time to discuss it at all means that in some way we were successful.

From the LAFD blog perspective (and without formal education or journalistic mentorship), please know that I try to offer headlines that attract attention and capture the spirit if not the letter of all that may have transpired.

Being off-duty, 'on-the-road' as an army of one, and trying to juggle the post with family life (and last-minute shopping for Mother's Day!), I'll admit that our agency would love to have the time, collaborative thinking and collegiate debate that goes into every headline and story that you and I enjoy in the newspaper.

Please know that I briefly considered 'displaced', but the phone rang, ten e-mails arrived and...

Kindly understand that in our current configuration, the headline text from our stories becomes part of the 'permalink' URL, so we are profoundly reluctant to change the headline unless it is erroroneous. The body of the story can be changed at-will, but a change in the headline makes for a dead links.

In looking across local news (print, radio, television and digital), I see where many if not most also used the term 'homeless' in their stories. That doesn't make it right, and indeed like many terms, only highlights what may be a journalistic crutch adopted by a well meaning municipal blogminder. :)

Mr. Huston, we do remain hopeful that readers were able to digest the story as a whole and get the gist of how they might prevent a similar occurrence. For that was and is our goal.

In response to your questions about "can't pay the rent" and "lost job" scenarios, they too must seek balance, but generally fall outside the realm of our Fire Department offerings.

In closing, I wish to again thank you for offering a non-anonymous and clearly on-topic comment.

If nothing else, you've been able to help us convey that if people are not careful, they may become homeless OR FAR WORSE!.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Steve Huston said...

Thank you for replying, I do understand. I was just making a point as to what I see and what I don't.


Anonymous said...

I think Firefighter Humphrey's response was certainly on point and written from a caring, compassionate heart.

Mr. Huston does bring up some very valid points regards to the homeless problem that affects our local communities and neighborhoods and certainly this country of ours. However, the fire departments mission is outside the scope of dealing with the homeless issue per se and should be left up to the Health and Human Services.

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