By Edwin Folven, 7/26/2012
A malfunctioning fog machine was blamed for an incident on July 21 at the Avalon in Hollywood where 22 people complained of injuries, including two who were treated at local hospitals for minor breathing problems.
The incident occurred around 6 p.m. as a band known as Midnight Red was performing at the Avalon, located at 1735 Vine St. Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Ruda, of the Public Safety Section of the department’s Fire Prevention Bureau, said the incident occurred when a carbon dioxide canister that was connected to the fog machine malfunctioned. The canister released a large amount of carbon dioxide gas all at once instead of over several minutes. Ruda said the gas was not toxic to inhale, but was so cold that it made it difficult to breathe. The gas cloud also made it very difficult to see, and caused minor skin irritation on some victims that was similar to frostbite.
“As the gas was expelled, it got very cold, very fast,” Ruda said. “As the crowd saw this [gas cloud] coming towards them, some of them ran outside. There were no serious injuries. It didn’t have any harmful effect, other than in a small, confined space, it scared a lot of people.”
Ruda said there were approximately 350 people inside the Avalon at the time, and all evacuated safely. Most of the 22 people who complained of injuries were treated by paramedics at the scene and released. It was initially reported that six people were transported to the hospital, but Ruda said the number had been revised to two. Both of those victims have also since been released. Vine Street was closed for approximately one hour during the incident. The performance was cancelled, but the venue reopened later that night, Ruda said.
LAFD inspectors had previously visited the Avalon that day and remained in Hollywood — which is routine during weekends. They quickly returned to the venue when reports came in about the incident, Ruda said. The inspectors are charged with ensuring the venues are safe and do not become too crowded, and conduct unscheduled inspections on a routine basis at all venues in Hollywood that hold more than 99 people. Ruda said the type of fog machine and canister that malfunctioned are commonly used at venues throughout the city, and they are not inherently dangerous.
“The machine malfunctioned for an unknown reason, and we are investigating why,” Ruda added. “I also always tell people when they go into a theatre to identify two exits that are not the place where they entered. It can be very dark, and people need to know how to get out if something happens.”