"They are commercial grade," Ontario Fire Department Chief Ray Gayk said in a news conference after a massive blast rocked a suburb of San Bernadino, California on Tuesday. He described further they were "like you would normally see in the fireworks show," according to the the Los Angeles Times.
Two people died when what appears to have been a private stockpile of commercial-grade fireworks ignited inside a suburban residence, erupting into a fireball and huge plume of smoke which prompted an immediate evacuation of the whole area, further causing several structures to catch fire.
My mom got it on tape 😳 pic.twitter.com/6QWgCPrMKz— damian_1027 (@damian_r24) March 16, 2021
According to local KABC-TV, "Officials later put crime scene tape around the house and covered two bodies at the scene, confirming there were two fatalities in addition to some injuries."
And further, police say they are investigating the matter as a potential felony due to the large 'illegal' fireworks cache that possibly included other explosives.
"Residents across a vast area reported hearing the blast and feeling the ground shake shortly before 1 p.m.," LA Times noted further.
Local reports additionally cited area residents and neighbors who said the house which allegedly contained the fireworks stockpile had been source of many prior complaints related to explosive detonations and frequent fireworks-related noise.
"Someone's in trouble..." one eyewitness exclaimed.
Firework show in Ontario, about three blocks from the explosion pic.twitter.com/mC4qrJqJse— Kristya (@k_th1ll) March 16, 2021
Likely an investigation will also focus on whether local authorities ignored or failed to respond to the prior complaints of neighbors. Area residents said police were somewhat routinely called about blasts and noise at the property, but that the homeowners were "never caught in the act".
Surreal footage of the initial blast from multiple angles showed a small mushroom cloud plume of smoke extending far into the sky over the southern California residential area.
Someone’s firework stack went off in Ontario shook our whole neighborhood pic.twitter.com/LmUrtgl0oK— pms♑️ (@Prudencepms) March 16, 2021
"The boom pushed me back, and the window shattered," one nearby eyewitness and area resident was cited as saying. "I got hit with the after-blast when I opened the door."
"Fireworks always go off over here. It shook the whole apartment from left to right," she added.
This is the terrifying moment when according to officials w/City of #Ontario explosions from a home filled with illegal fireworks sent debris flying through the surrounding area, shattered windows & threw people several ft. @ABC7 🎥 ARLENE FIERO pic.twitter.com/Xb8M9lLORH— Jessica De Nova (@abc7jessica) March 16, 2021
Police and firefighters later said they had to cordon off a larger area than expected, preventing people from returning to their homes in the neighborhood, due to the vastness of the debris field.
ONTARIO EXPLOSION: Videos from eyewitnesses show fireworks igniting and massive smoke plume as frightened residents flee from the scene https://t.co/pwh9Wf0fxw— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) March 16, 2021
Fires had continued to smolder into the evening, with reports of smaller, random follow-up blasts involving fireworks still going off.