A massive explosion set off by fireworks at an Ontario house rocked a residential neighborhood Tuesday, prompting a large response from firefighters and law enforcement.
Residents spread across a vast area reported hearing the blast shortly before 1 p.m. near Fern Avenue and Francis Street and feeling the ground shake.
“We are aware of the loud explosion that was heard recently,” a brief statement from the city’s official Twitter account said. “The Ontario Police Department and the Ontario Fire Department are investigating it. Please stay clear of the area.”
The Ontario Fire Department issued an evacuation order for neighboring properties on West Francis Street and West Maple Avenue, between Fern and San Antonio. A temporary reception center was set up at the De Anza Community Center, at 1405 S. Fern Ave.
.@OntarioPD and @OntarioFireDept are currently on scene in the area of Fern Avenue and Francis Street. A large amount of fireworks at a house ignited, causing a large structure fire. Explosions being heard are by fireworks at this time. More details to follow. https://t.co/y6atiGL1OD
— City of Ontario (@CityofOntario) March 16, 2021
The city tweeted that a large cache of fireworks ignited at a house, setting the residence on fire. Smoke could be seen from as far away as Anaheim.
Two structures on the same lot — a front and back house — were engulfed in flames following the explosion, Ontario spokesman Dan Bell said.
“The roof is gone, burned out,” Bell said of the rear property. “The one on the front — I was on the street; I could see flames coming through the roof. It will most likely be a total loss.”
A horse, smudged with black soot, was seen trotting around the property after firefighters freed it from one building’s wreckage, according to Bell and video from ABC-TV Channel 7.
Newscasters in KTLA-TV Channel 5’s helicopter reported seeing a body at the scene. Bell said he could not confirm any deaths or injuries.
More than 50 firefighters were hosing water onto the smoldering fire about 2:30 p.m., more than 90 minutes after the explosion, Bell said. Investigators haven’t gone inside any of the structures yet because of the fireworks, he said.
“We’re hoping we can get on scene and start this investigation process and get those neighbors home as quickly as possible.”
A woman who works at nearby Ontario Maple Head Start/State Preschool who wished to be identified only as Nicole said the explosion blew out windows in the school building.
“We thought at first it was an earthquake, until we went outside and then [saw] some smoke,” she said. “And then we heard a second really loud boom … with stuff flying everywhere.”
About 15 to 20 people were inside the school at the time of the explosion, she said, but no one was injured. No students were on site at the time.
Ontario officials said explosions from the fireworks continued to be heard after the initial blast. A video on social media showed a fiery explosion followed by a large plume of smoke.