Eight people were injured, three of them critically, after an explosion in July 2013 ripped through a five-story tenement building on Pike Street in Chinatown. According to law enforcement officials, the explosion, which also resulted in a fire, was caused by the misuse of aerosol insecticide foggers. The foggers, often referred to as “bug bombs,” are highly flammable and are used to kill infestations of cockroaches and other insects. As fire officials continued to investigate the incident, it was unknown how many foggers had been set off.
However, according to a pamphlet published by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, misuse of aerosol insecticides causes 500 explosions and fires every year throughout the country. The pamphlet states, “Accidents usually happen when people use too many foggers for the space they are treating, leading to a dangerous buildup of flammable vapors. These vapors can be ignited by pilot lights (in a stove or water heater, for example), or by a spark from an electrical appliance that cycles on and off.”
The blast from the explosion was so forceful that it blew out windows of the first three floors and caused a partial collapse of the building. According to Robert Boyce, a Fire Department spokesman, there was a large fire on the first floor which spread to the second and third floors. Boyce commented, “We had minimum collapse but heavy fire on the first floor.”
Black smoke could be seen from blocks away shortly after the explosion occurred. David Runsen Deng, 34, heard the blast while watching television and witnessed its chaotic aftermath as firefighters rushed to the scene to rescue people trapped inside the building. Deng said, “Some people were bleeding. Other people were lying down. I couldn’t tell if they were dead or sleeping. The firemen came and broke down a window and took people out of the building.” Deng also stated that one man appeared to be unconscious as firefighters pulled him from a window on the upper floor.
In addition to the eight people injured, Boyce stated that four firefighters suffered minor heat-related injuries. The eight injured people were taken to Bellevue Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital.
The building contained two businesses: Piao Liang Ren Sheng Beauty, a beauty parlor, and Brothers Bus Line, a discount bus company. Fifteen apartments were housed above the businesses, which were on the first floor.
Over the past several years, the building has been cited for several code violations. However, fire officials could not say if the violations were linked to the explosion and fire. The owner of the building could not be reached to comment on the incident.
Website Resource: Explosion in Chinatown Building Leaves 3 Badly Hurt, NY Times, July 12, 2013