Three people were seriously injured and taken by helicopters to trauma centers after two big explosions on the 700 block of Third Street Sunday at 1:25 p.m.
Police and fire responded to calls about the first blast and as they arrived there was a second blast. They cordoned off the streets in the Beach Hill area, not far from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and evacuated neighboring buildings.
The fire is considered suspicious, police said, and it is being investigated.
Santa Cruz Fire Battalion Chief Mike Venzio said the department was called to a blaze in the alley behind 703 Third St. When they got there, they encountered heavy fire and explosions coming from a garage and apartment in the alley, he said.
The fire was spreading to a four-story apartment building, but the firefighters beat it down.
Three severely burned men approached firefighters for help. All three had 60-70 percent of their bodies burned with second and third degree burns.
Damage was limited to the garage and an apartment and a couple of cars parked next to the garage.
There were 27 firefighters, eight engines, three helicopters and three ambulances, as well as firefighters from Scotts Valley, Central Fire, Aptos and Ben Lomond Fire.
Damage was estimated at $100,000 with a $1 million building saved. No firefighters were injured.
Police ask for anyone with information to contact the investigations unit at (831) 420-5820.