By Ariel Steinsaltz
An explosion at an Oktoberfest celebration in Huntington Beach, Calif., left several people injured just after 8 p.m. on Oct. 5, according to CBS News.
The city’s fire department battalion chief Jeff Lopez said that two firefighters and two restaurant employees were being treated for minor injuries, and a third restaurant employee had moderate to severe injuries, according to CBS News.
The event, an American version of the German celebration, usually lasts for two months, according to NBC News. The Washington Post reported that the event is held annually at Old World Village in Huntington Beach, which is a “German-themed shopping and dining complex.”
Firefighters arrived on the scene at around 8 p.m., investigating a possible electrical fire with a security guard, according to CBS News. When they went to the vault, they reported an explosion. The fire reportedly caused heated mineral oil inside the transformers to be sprayed during the explosion, which might have caused the subsequent explosions, according to CBS News.
There were three explosions in total, with the first apparently occurring just as firefighters arrived on the scene to respond to a reported electrical fire, according to CNN.
The first blast knocked people to the ground and blew the door to the underground electrical vault off its hinges, according to The Washington Post. The door was made of metal and weighed 50 pounds, according to ABC News.
Of the three transformers in the vault, only one exploded, according to ABC News.
“‘Once the other fire crews arrived, they worked to ensure that the fire was isolated to the vault and to search the structure for any remaining occupants,’” Lopez said to CNN.
Among the five people injured was the owner of Old World Village, Bernie Bischoff, according to The Washington Post. About forty minutes before the blast, Bischoff had smelled something strange coming from the area of the vault, and evacuated the dining area.
A few hours earlier, the area had held a children’s birthday party, according to CBS News. Bischoff received second- and third-degree burns to 38 percent of his body, and his hair was on fire. He is being hailed as a hero for preventing more people from getting hurt.
Megan Houck, a witness to the explosion, described it as a “‘giant fireball.’”
Flames reportedly went as high as 40 feet in the air, according to The Washington Post.
Pat Brassil, an attendee at the festival and witness to the explosions, described the event. The Washington Post reported that he told The Los Angeles Times that “‘(the flames) just lit up the sky. Everyone was going pretty crazy and screaming. The tent exploded once and then exploded again in the same spot.’”