ABC7 Eyewitness News reported that a methane leak into two underground vaults beneath Wilshire Blvd. caused a small explosion on Sunday, Feb 8 at approximately 4:30pm. The Los Angeles Fire Department and Department of Water and Power responded. No one was hurt and no service was disrupted in the area.
The incident took place near the corner of Wilshire Blvd and Curson, just across from the Page Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits. The area has long been known to have substantial methane gas releases, a highly explosive component of the natural tar that bubbles to the surface. The methane is regularly vented to vaults for safety reasons, but build-up can occur. In May of 2013 the Beverly Press reported that city officials had to ventilate maintenance vaults in the area after a serious build-up of methane was discovered by students undertaking odor and gas testing who found high levels of explosive gases.
Long-term residents will recall another methane-related explosion when the Ross Dress for Less on Third Street near Fairfax exploded one late afternoon in March 1985 due to the accumulation of methane gas trapped in the store’s auxiliary room. The gas ignited and blew out the windows, collapsed part of the roof, turned the interior into a mess of twisted metal, and sent 23 people to the hospital. Video footage of the event can be seen online via the “Grassroots Coalition” that published the news report of the incident in 2014.
The presence of high levels of methane beneath Wilshire Blvd. has long been a concern in building the Purple Line Extension down the middle of the Wilshire corridor.