News Update: Ontario, CA: Latest information regarding the deadly massive fireworks explosion along the 400 block of West Francis Street.

By: Zachary Lopez (ZachNews):

Sources: Ontario Fire Department, Ontario Police Department and City of Ontario (Information):

Ontario, California: Here is the latest information regarding the deadly massive fireworks explosion along the 400 block of West Francis Street that occurred on Tuesday, March 16th, 2021.

*** As of 11:00 p.m. PT on Monday; March 20th, 2021: ***

Additional information from the City of Ontario regarding the massive fireworks explosion has been provided.

How many times was the Ontario Police Department/Ontario Fire Department notified in the past year of illegal fireworks being set off at the subject property?

According to the City of Ontario, “In the twelve months preceding the explosion, OPD was called to the house at 428 West Francis only one time (and even then, it was in regard to a shots fired call).  Nothing during the response to that call indicated that there was a cache of illegal fireworks at the property.”

The City of Ontario said that if residents would like to request a record of calls for service related to fireworks at this subject property, please go to: https://ontarioca.seamlessdocs.com/w/PublicRecordsRequest

Did the City of Ontario know that there was a cache of fireworks onsite at that location?

According to the City of Ontario, “Obviously not. Neither OPD nor OFD knew what was awaiting arriving units at the subject property – that’s what made the response even more dangerous to public safety personnel.”

Does the City of Ontario enforce their anti-fireworks ordinance?

According to the City of Ontario, “Yes. In 2020, the OPD issued 185 citations to persons setting off fireworks in town.  Each citation carries with it a $1000 fine.  Additionally, Ontario officers annually seize hundreds of pounds of illegal fireworks in the weeks and months leading up to the July 4th holiday.”

How many residents are going to be without housing in the aftermath of the Francis Street Incident?

According to the City of Ontario, “None. The City of Ontario is assuming the housing victims of crime responsibilities from the American Red Cross as of Tuesday, March 30th for families who previously did not qualify for housing program assistance.  At this point, fourteen (14) families needing housing will be assisted by the City’s Housing Department.”

The City of Ontario said that if you are a victim of the Francis Street Incident and need housing assistance, please call: 1(909) 395-2897.

Has the cause of the explosion been determined?

According to the City of Ontario, “This investigation on this matter is still pending. Commenting on the investigation at this point would be inappropriate.”

The City of Ontario want residents who were affected by the massive fireworks explosion to know that, “The City of Ontario Mayor and Ontario City Council are here for you as we recover as a community from the Francis Incident, as we move forward with this Incident, below are some resources that are being provided. Please refer to the resources for more info and assistance for you and your family.”

*** As of 11:00 p.m. PT on Friday; March 19th, 2021: ***

According to the City of Ontario, effective March 19 at 5 PM, the mandatory evacuation order has been lifted for the following green zones listed in the map. For more information, visit: https://www.ontarioca.gov/

Affected residents may contact the City of Ontario Public Information Hotline at (909) 395-2970.

*** As of 5:00 p.m. PT on Friday, March 29th, 2021: ***

Some families remained displaced as authorities continued to destroy a massive cache of fireworks in an Ontario neighborhood rocked earlier this week by explosions.

Ontario officials Friday evening announced a portion of the mandatory evacuations issued were downgraded to voluntary, allowing some residents to return home.

Picture: City of Ontario (Courtesy):

In a tweet, the City of Ontario said, “Effective March 19 at 5 PM, the mandatory evacuation order has been lifted for the following green zones listed in the map. For more information, visit https://www.ontarioca.gov/.
Affected residents may contact the City of Ontario Public Information Hotline at (909) 395-2970.”

Ontario Fire Department Chief Ray Gayk said small controlled burns still need to be conducted, and the Environmental Protection Agency will start helping in the cleanup and removal of debris.

The work to completely clear the area will continue over the next couple of days.

 

*** As of 9:00 p.m. PT on Thursday, March 18th, 2021: ***

Investigators continued to comb through the remains of a massive explosion.

For a second day in a row, crews destroyed several rounds of unexploded fireworks that sent plumes of smoke into the air.

According to the City of Ontario, they will continue the controlled burns until all hazardous materials are destroyed.

Regional air quality officials advise that neighborhoods directly downwind might experience unhealthy air quality at times through Thursday.

The massive explosion left two people dead and displaced dozens of neighbors.

Authorities said approximately 80 27-gallon buckets of illegal fireworks were removed and destroyed on Thursday, and during the past two days, bomb technicians have collected 140 27-gallon buckets of illegal fireworks.

According to Ontario Fire Department Chief Ray Gayk, three large fireworks that can’t be removed will be detonated on Friday.

The two people who died in the blast were found in the backyard of the property.

As of today, officials have not been formally identified the two people who died in the massive explosion.

*** As of 11:00 p.m. PT on Wednesday, March 17th, 2021: ***

Investigation continues into the deadly massive fireworks explosion that officials say “large amount” of fireworks caused the massive explosion in the neighborhood.

Officials say two people are missing, yet they have not confirmed if the two missing are the ones reported dead.

The coroner’s office retrieved two bodies on Wednesday from the backyard of the property where the explosions occurred; but they have not confirmed their identities.

However, family members and neighbors are identifying to local news outlets that the two people as 38 year old Alex Paez and 20 year old Cesar Paez.

The two people who were killed were “in the area of the explosion and the fire,” said Ontario Fire Department Chief Ray Gayk said during an afternoon press conference, but authorities don’t know yet the exact point of origin of the blast.

***

Pictures: Twitter by @Prudencepms, Ontario Fire Department and Fox 11 Los Angeles (Courtesy):

The massive explosion occurred shortly after 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 400 block of West Francis Street.

***

This video posted by @Prudencepms via Twitter shows when the massive explosion.

Video posted to Twitter by Kristya @K_th1ll of the massive explosion.

Video posted to Twitter by @damian_r24 of the massive explosion.

Firefighters worked to douse the flames for hours after the initial blast, as they could not approach close to the property because of the risk of additional explosions.

Firefighters crews remained at the scene Wednesday morning.

The massive explosion shattering nearby windows on surrounding properties and igniting multiple structure fires, and leaving people in the neighborhood shaken up.

According to Ontario Fire Department Chief Ray Gayk, “There were some people near the house or in the house when the explosion happened, they were able to get out of the house, there was a minor injury, but we’re not sure if that minor injury came from the explosion.”

Bomb squad responded to the massive explosion scene to help clear the scene of any additional explosive material.

Ontario Police Department will not be able to start investigating what exactly was in the property until the fire crews finish rendering the area around it clear.

When fireworks get wet and dry out, they become unstable so every piece of explosive has to be retrieved.

According to Ontario Fire Department Chief Ray Gayk, “We’re going to have several days of picking up debris and disposing of all the explosives we are able to find.”

On Wednesday, they gathered 60 vats, 27 gallons a piece, or ordinance which they will destroy on site by burning it.

Personnel from the United States Environmental Protection Agency will soon be arriving at the scene of the massive explosion to oversee the investigation.

Fire officials explain they don’t want to chance transporting the material away from here, to dispose of it.

According to the Ontario Police Department, they have received previous reports of firework use in the neighborhood, which the City of Ontario said fireworks are illegal in their city.

There will be a joint investigation into the massive explosion by the Ontario Fire Department, Ontario Police Department, arson investigators, the FBI, ATF and the California State Fire Marshal.

Picture: City of Ontario (Courtesy):

As of 6;02 p.m. PT, the City of Ontario said that as part of clean-up efforts at the scene, bomb technicians will be conducting a controlled burn of unexploded fireworks.

This activity will happen until all the hazardous materials are destroyed, which means noise from the destroyed fireworks may be heard and smoke may be visible.

Picture: City of Ontario (Courtesy):

Meanwhile, officials say an evacuation order remains in effect for about 80 residents in the 300 and 400 block W. Francis and the 400 W. Maple Street between Fern and San Antonio Ave.

The evacuation area shown in the map below will stay in effect throughout the night Wednesday.

A temporary care and reception center was established at the De Anza Community Center, located at 1405 S. Fern. Ave.

About 50 residents were given hotel vouchers for Wednesday night until they were allowed to return to their homes.

Officials are asking residents as well as the public to stay away from the area as they conduct the investigation.

***

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