Two Businesses Reach Plea Deal in Blaze That Injured 12 Firefighters


US-CALIFORNIA-FIRE

US-CALIFORNIA-FIRE

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Two businesses agreed today to a plea deal in a criminal case stemming from a massive fire and explosion in the downtown Los Angeles Toy District that injured a dozen firefighters, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office said.

Smoke Tokes and Green Buddha are required to pay $139,000 each in investigative costs and serve three years of summary probation, according to Rob Wilcox, the director of community engagement and outreach for the City Attorney's Office.

The businesses cannot occupy the property and must relinquish the lease, according to Wilcox.

Charges against two people, Shafaq Sattar and Raheela Lakhanny, were dismissed in light of the corporate pleas, Wilcox said.

The businesses were among those housed in the building at 327 Boyd St., where the May 16 fire allegedly started before spreading to an adjacent building, according to a statement released earlier this year by the City Attorney's Office.

The building's owner, Steve Sungho Lee, 56, is among those still awaiting arraignment Feb. 4 in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on charges filed earlier this year in connection with investigations stemming from the blaze.

Lee could face up to 68 years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines if convicted as charged, according to the City Attorney's Office.

Fire crews were inside the building when a “significant explosion'' shook the neighborhood around Smoke Tokes Warehouse Distributor, “a supplier for those who make butane honey oil,'' Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Erik Scott said soon afterward.

In a video posted several days later on YouTube, LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said firefighters had noticed that conditions were “rapidly deteriorating'' and began an immediate retreat to the street.

“During the transition out of the building and off the roof, 11 firefighters and the aerial ladder of Truck 9 were engulfed by a massive fireball that stretched entirely across Boyd Street, scorching the cab of Truck 9,'' Terrazas said.

“This prompted a mayday call to be broadcast, causing dozens of firefighters to come to the aid of their fallen colleagues.''

A 12th firefighter was also taken to the hospital, with more than 230 firefighters eventually responding to the blaze that took 1 hour and 42 minutes to extinguish, Terrazas said.

At least one of the firefighters remained hospitalized until July, according to the LAFD. Earlier this week, some of the injured firefighters met with doctors and nurses who treated them at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center.

“The Boyd Street Fire was a devastating incident that could have easily turned into an epic tragedy for the LAFD,'' Terrazas said in a statement issued by the City Attorney's Office announcing the charges.

“Thanks to the work of our arson investigators, the Fire Prevention Bureau, the LAPD and the City Attorney's Office, we are one step closer to holding accountable the individuals who may have contributed to the circumstances that precipitated this fire and, hopefully, be able to prevent similar incidents in the future.''

The City Attorney's Office alleged earlier this year that illegally stored hazardous materials were found in the building and three other properties owned by Lee, with the most egregious violations allegedly occurring at the property where the fire began.

The charges were filed after investigations of the downtown Los Angeles buildings and businesses by the Los Angeles Fire Department and its Arson Unit, the Los Angeles Police Department and the city's Department of Building and Safety, according to the City Attorney's Office.

Photo: Getty Images