Explosion in Newport Beach sends three to hospital

NEWPORT BEACH — Three people were rushed to the hospital with burns Wednesday morning after an explosion in an apartment complex near Fashion Island, firefighters said.

Residents in the 200 block of Baywood Drive called 9-1-1 at 10 a.m. to report hearing the explosion, said Battalion Chief Ralph Restadius.

Witnesses reported seeing flames and multiple people on the ground.

Firefighters found the fire outside a first-floor apartment, with flames lapping up to the second story. Four were found injured, including three with severe burns to their hands and face, Restadius said.

The fourth victim was treated at the scene.

Early reports indicate that employees of the Irvine Co.-owned complex were working on a water heater when it exploded. They were said to be those who were injured.

Irvine Co. officials said displaced residents will be put up in hotels and other properties until more permanent housing is found. It was not immediately clear how many people would be displaced, but a fire official said two units in the complex were affected.

Baywood Drive is a residential tract near San Joaquin Hills Road and San Miguel Drive, just west of Harbor View Nature Park. It is close to Fashion Island and Roger's Gardens.

Art Greenfield and Franziska Meitra-Greenfield were in the pool when they heard the explosion, which was followed by oncoming helicopters and sirens.

Another witness, who declined to be identified, said that she saw a victim in "agony." She also saw a "woosh of flames and smoke" and four men run out of the explosion area.

At 11:30 a.m. the door cover to the water heater was broken in half, and there was singed plastic outside the building.

The Irvine Co. is investigating the cause of the explosion, according to spokeswoman Erin Freeman.

joseph.serna@latimes.com, lauren.williams@latimes.com

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