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37 Years Ago: Industrial Blast Leveled Arts District Block

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2011, at 07:48AM
L.A. Times, August 18, 1974 L.A. Times, Aug. 18, 1974

Front page of the L.A. Times on August 18, 1974, the day after the explosion at 7th and Mateo.

When an explosion rocked Downtown Los Angeles on the evening of Saturday, August 17, 1974, the first thought of those nearby was that a bomb had gone off. A fireball—estimated to have risen ten stories high—was visible for miles around Industrial and Mateo. Hundreds of windows were shattered.

Four miles away at the L.A. Coliseum, attendees of the Los Angeles Rams game against the Kansas City Chiefs described the blast as a "miniature atomic bomb."

Instead, the blast was the result of an exploding truckload of chemicals in a lot owned by Star Trucking and Warehouse.

The cargo, several thousand pounds of benzoyl peroxide, may have ignited after being left in the sun too long. The trucking company had attempted to deliver it to a plastics firm in Commerce, but returned it to the lot after the shipment was refused. In the days after the blast, Fire Department officials postulated that the sun or possibly a small fire may have set off the contents.

The ignition time was hailed as a stroke of good luck for the company and the city. The blast took place on a Saturday evening, a time when few workers were in the surrounding neighborhood.

Today, the block is the southern hub of the residential Arts District. The Toy District Lofts and Biscuit Company Lofts are both located at the intersection.

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