Two people died in a house fire sparked by commercial-grade fireworks in Ontario, which prompted reports of an explosion some said felt like an earthquake Tuesday afternoon.
Billowing smoke was still rising from the house more than an hour after authorities first responded. Sky5 was flying overhead as firefighters tried putting out the blaze just after 1 p.m., when bright red flames were still visible through the home’s windows.
The blaze left two people dead and led to an evacuation of homes in the surrounding area, authorities said.
Firefighters received a call about an explosion at 12:28 p.m., Ontario Chief Ray Gayk said during a news conference later in the afternoon. He said first responders saw flames upon arriving to the home located along West Francis Street.
“That’s when we noticed the fire had started,” Gayk said.
He said investigators with the department’s bomb squad, FBI and ATF were still going through the area to make sure no explosives were left about three hours after firefighters responded.
Ontario Police Lt. Russell told KTLA police had also received reports of a loud explosion in the 400 block of West Francis Street. City officials later said those were the sounds of fireworks going off.
Fireworks are illegal in Ontario, according to the city’s website.
“Without knowing exactly what was in there, but due to the large explosion, we would — at a minimum — be investigating a felony or several felonies… depending on what cache of fireworks or explosive materials they had in there,” Ontario Police Department Chief Mike Lorenz said.
Some individuals in the neighborhood told KTLA it felt like there was an earthquake.
“A whole wall fell on me… I actually had my pants in flames but I was able to get a hose,” said Helene Fierro, who lives next door to the house that caught fire.
Her leg ended up getting burned after flames traveled into her home, she said, and windows inside her home shattered due to the impact of the explosion.
Fierro said it’s common for people in the neighborhood to set off illegal fireworks.
“They continuously do this — they do it every other day,” Fierro said. “It’s unfortunate it took this for the cops and the fire department to do something about it.”
Nearly six hours after authorities responded, firefighters continued to hose down the house and mop up the surrounding area. Sky5 footage showed the blaze still burning around that time.
The fire department issued an evacuation order for West Francis Street and West Maple Avenue between Fern and San Antonio with a temporary reception facility set up at the De Anza Community Center located at 1405 S. Fern St.
Officials announced closures of the following streets — Francis, Locust and Maple between Fern and San Antonio.