‘Bong Row’ Building Owner and Occupants Hit with 300 Criminal Charges Following Blast

A downtown warehouse exploded in May, causing in a massive fire and injuring 11 firefighters
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Owners and occupants of four buildings that exploded in May will face 300 criminal charges in connection with the incident. Prosecutors say the buildings, located in a stretch known as “bong row” due to the numerous vaping- and smoking-related businesses in the area, burst into flames due to hazardous materials illegally stored inside.

The allegations include failures to post adequate hazardous materials warning signs, create clear aisles, or correctly classify the hazardous substances.

In announcing the charges, City Attorney Mike Feuer noted that the explosion not only caused property damage, it also injured 11 LAFD firefighters as they attempted to control the blaze.

“The fire and explosion that ripped through the Boyd Street property caused our firefighters great suffering—and came perilously close to costing their lives,” Feuer told the Los Angeles Times. “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. The public is counting on us to protect them from a potential catastrophe.”

Problems that night began at 327 Boyd Street, where wholesale brands Smoke Trees, Green Buddha, and Bio Hazard operated. Fire quickly spread to three neighboring structures. All four buildings are owned by developer Steve Sungho Lee.

Lee is charged with 135 criminal counts. Smoke Tokes faces 168 charges.

Times reporter Emily Alpert Reyes noted on Twitter that Lee has been linked to significant political contributions in the city, including to Jose Huizar. In 2015, David Ryu’s campaign returned a contribution made by Lee in order to maintain a pledge to not accept donations from real estate developers that could require city approval for their projects.


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