Two firefighters and two restaurant employees were treated for minor injuries following the blasts around 8:15 p.m. Saturday during the annual event at Old World Village in Huntington Beach, according to Battalion Chief Jeff Lopez with the city's fire department. A third restaurant employee had moderate to severe injuries, he said.
Lopez said firefighters were at the scene around 8 p.m. PT with a security guard at Old World Village dining and event complex investigating reports of an electrical fire. When they went to the vault to investigate, they reported an explosion, Lopez said. According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the electrical vault fire caused mineral oil inside the transformers to be sprayed during the explosion. This possibly ignited the subsequent explosions.
Lopez said the area of the restaurant closest to the vault where the explosions took place was coincidentally emptier than usual for a busy Saturday night because tables needed to be cleared and staff had held back on seating patrons. Lopez said they are still investigating the cause of the fire.
The owner of Old World Village, Bernie Bischoff, was among those injured in the explosion. The Press-Telegraph reports that Bischoff had evacuated the dining area of people about 40 minutes before the blast after noticing an odd smell coming from the area of the vault. A children's birthday party had taken place three hours prior.
Oktoberfest-Old World Village spokesman Dan Escamilla called Bischoff "A hero."
Bischoff was hospitalized with second-and-third-degree burns to 38 percent of his body. His hair was on fire and employees rushed to stamp out flames on his body by wrapping him in a table cloth.
"It was just like one giant fireball that went up," witness Megan Houck told the Orange County Register. "And then there was a second explosion maybe 10 or 20 seconds later."