Evacuated residents are waiting for word on when they can return to homes in an Ontario neighborhood three days after a fireworks stash went up in deadly explosion that hurled debris across about 80 properties in the San Bernardino County community.
Bomb squad members have combed the neighborhood in search of more fireworks. Until they determine the area is safe, residents will remain under evacuation orders.
Teams have found bucket-loads of fireworks following the blast Tuesday that killed two cousins, ages 38 and 20. The recovered fireworks are then burned.
“Some of them are exploded fireworks, some have not exploded,” said Ontario Police Chief Mike Lorenz. “It’s really a mixed bag.”
Officials on Thursday said about 80 27-gallon bins of fireworks had been burned. Regional air quality officials advised that neighborhoods directly downwind might experience unhealthy air quality at times.
The odor of fireworks continues to waft through the neighborhood about 40 miles east of Los Angeles.
Fire Chief Ray Gayk said he expects that another 80 bins will be burned Friday. The controlled burns began Wednesday evening, and the city of Ontario tweeted that they would continue until all hazardous materials are destroyed.
Authorities, including the FBI, are investigating where the huge stash of fireworks came from. Officials said the fireworks do not appear to be commercial-grade products, as they initially thought. Investigators are trying to track bar codes on the fireworks.
“We don’t understand why all of the fireworks were there,” Lorenz said.
Investigators are waiting for the properties to be deemed safe before they enter.
Cousins Alex Paez, 38, and Cesar Paez, 20, were reported missing after the explosion. Their family told NBCLA they are the two people who were found dead in the backyard of the home where the fireworks exploded.
Possession or use of fireworks in the city of Ontario is illegal and prohibited unless a permit is issued for use, transport or storage. Only state-licensed pyro technicians are issued permits.
Source: NBC Los Angeles