ABSTRACT: Cause of 1985 Ross Store Explosion and Other Gas Ventings

ABSTRACT: Cause of 1985 Ross Store Explosion and Other Gas Ventings by Douglas H. Hamilton and Richard L. Meehan, Excerpt from: Engineering Geology Practice in Southern California, Association of Engineering Geologists, Special Publication No. 4, 1992.
Late in the afternoon of March 24, 1985, methane gas that had been accumulating ignited in an auxiliary room of the Ross Dress-For-Less Department Store located on Third Street, in the Wilshire-Fairfax District of Los Angeles. The resulting explosion blew out the windows and partially collapsed the roof of the structure, reduced the store interior to a heap of twisted metal and resulted in injuries requiring hospital treatment of twenty-three people. Police closed off four blocks around an eerie scene of spouting gas flames that continued through the night. … And yet, three months later when a hastily convened panel of experts announced that the event was caused by digestive rumblings of an ancient and invisible swamp the whole thing had been mostly forgotten, the explanation accepted as yet another production of Los Angeles’ quirky environment. Outside of a lawsuit that was settled quietly in 1990, the possibility that the accident was caused by the knowing agency of Los Angeles’ lesser known industry or that the official report of the experts, rather than being a serious statement of the scientific community, was a heavily edited script with a happily blameless ending, was not made known to the public, as we shall proceed to do here.

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