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Worker Critically Burned In Explosion, Fire In Chipotle Of Downtown LA High-Rise, Dozens Evacuated

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – One man suffered critical burns when an explosion and fire occurred in a Chipotle restaurant located on the ground floor of a high-rise residential building in downtown Los Angeles Monday morning, sending smoke billowing through the building, causing panic and forcing dozens of evacuations.

Fire Breaks Out In Restaurant Of Downtown LA High-Rise, One Hurt
A fire burns in downtown Los Angeles high-rise building. Jan. 24, 2022. (CBSLA)

The explosion and fire were reported at 8:30 a.m. in a ground floor Chipotle of a 27-story high-rise in the 200 block of Grand Avenue, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. The restaurant was believed to be undergoing renovations.

Crews arrived on scene to find a man who had been working inside the Chipotle on fire.

"The adult male that we were immediately met by, who tragically was on fire, who suffered second and third-degree burns on 50% of his body, does appear to be a worker who was on the ground level inside of this restaurant that was undergoing renovation," LAFD Capt. Erik Scott said.

He was taken to a hospital in unknown condition. Meanwhile, although the blaze was quickly extinguished within about 20 minutes, the smoke rose through the entire building.

The first few floors of the building are offices. However, most of the floors are occupied by residential units. The building has about 700 residents.

"So when I go outside, I'm on the 22nd floor, and it's just smoke billowing everywhere, I couldn't even see anything," resident Diana Ruiz told CBSLA. "So I'm obviously panicking, so I just start running down the stairs. I'm not even kidding. I thought I was going to die."

"I'm right above it, I heard the explosion," resident Rosa Gasparin added. "Then I heard the intercom in the apartment telling us to get out. But by the time I got out the hallways was full of smoke and it was dark already, so I thought it was too late. I went back in. And there was a family that's trying to get down. So I just pulled them into my apartment because they could not see the stairs."

An unknown number of people were stuck in elevators. All were helped out to safety. Some workers on the roof of the building were also escorted down the stairwell by firefighters to safety.

There was no word on what started the fire. Officials were investigating unconfirmed reports of a possible explosion, LAFD said.  The building engineer and LAFD Fire Prevention Bureau Inspector were on scene as well.

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