By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

In the days following last Saturday’s massive Boyd Street fire just outside of Little Tokyo, debris can still be found strewn around Little Tokyo, a dark reminder of the explosion that accompanied the May 16 blaze.

Capt. Victor Aguirre

Twelve firefighters were injured in the fire and ensuing blast. Eleven were hospitalized.

Capt. Victor Aguirre, who suffered third-degree burns on both hands in addition to other injuries, is the only one still hospitalized. He faces a long road to recovery and will be off duty for at least one year.

“It’s a miracle more people weren’t hurt,” commented one local resident.

Retired Los Angeles County Fire Department Deputy Chief David Yamahata agrees. He credits the extensive training each firefighter receives for the fact that no one was killed in the incident.

“There’s a fine line between a firefighter being injured and a firefighter that is killed,” reminds Yamahata. “We have a saying: ‘Train as if your life depends on it. Because it does.’”

Capt. Aguirre’s training and experience may have made the difference between life and death. According to reports, on entering the building, he sensed that something was not right and instinctively directed his fellow firefighters to exit the building. An explosion followed. Aguirre was the last one out. His quick actions undoubtedly saved lives.

Yamahata, a well-known figure in Little Tokyo who last year served as Nisei Week chairman, was a battalion chief when he first met Aguirre about 20 years ago.

A GoFundMe drive was launched on May 18 for Aguirre, who is the sole source of income for his wife and two children. Over $150,000 has been raised to date from more than 2,300 donors. To contribute, go to

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