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10 students burned as portable stove explodes at Torrance high school

Ten students were injured inside a Torrance classroom Friday when a gas-operated, portable stove exploded, and authorities are trying to determine whether the school has a permit for the device.

The explosion at North High School occurred during a lunchtime fundraiser for UNICEF, said Tammy Khan, a spokeswoman for the Torrance Unified School District. Students were cooking for the fundraiser when the accident occurred.

Investigators with the Torrance Fire Department believe the cause of the fire was related to gas leaking from a butane or propane canister used to heat one of three portable stoves used in the classroom, said Capt. Steve Deuel.

All 10 students, some of whom were burned on their necks, faces and hands, were taken to local hospitals. Several of the injuries were considered serious.

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“It was a flash-type fire, so they’re being more cautious about any type of gas inhalation injuries,” Deuel said. “Those types of injuries can sometimes be more serious than they appear at the onset.”

Deuel said fire prevention inspectors have not determined if the school had a permit for the cooking event.

“There’s very specific regulations that govern schools and regulate what can happen inside a classroom,” he said.

The room was evacuated and parents of the injured students were called. No structures were involved.

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Torrance police officers temporarily closed off a portion of 182nd Street for emergency vehicles and helped direct traffic.

The school stayed open throughout the incident.

corina.knoll@latimes.com

Times staff writers Andrew Blankstein and Sam Quinones contributed to this report.


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