Traffic disruptions are anticipated in Los Angeles during the Monday commute, following a weekend fire that led to the closure of a major elevated interstate near downtown, according to officials.
Crews are currently engaged in assessing the extent of the damage caused by the intense blaze. Governor Gavin Newsom revealed that hazardous materials teams are working to clear burned debris from beneath Interstate 10. This process is essential to pave the way for engineers to inspect the columns and deck of the highway, ensuring their ability to support the approximately 300,000 vehicles that traverse the route daily. Newsom addressed the media on Sunday, emphasizing the multifaceted nature of the operation, involving both a structural engineering assessment and a hazardous materials investigation.
The governor underscored the ongoing nature of the effort, stating it would be a “24-7 operation.” However, a definitive timeline for the reopening of the highway is yet to be determined.
With the closure affecting a mile-long stretch of Interstate 10 between Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue, commuters have been advised to consider working from home or utilizing public transportation to reach downtown Los Angeles. The ripple effects of the closure are expected to impact surface streets and other key freeways, including State Route 60 and Interstate 5, as noted by the California Highway Patrol.
The cause of the fire, which broke out around 12:20 a.m. on Saturday, remains under investigation. The flames engulfed two storage lots in an industrial area beneath the highway, consuming parked cars, wooden pallets, and support poles for high-tension power lines. Fire Chief Kristin Crowley reported no injuries.
Over 160 firefighters from multiple companies responded to the incident, battling the blaze that spread across 8 acres (3 hectares) for three hours. The aftermath reveals charred and chipped columns and twisted, blackened guardrails along the highway deck.
Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency on Saturday, seeking federal assistance through the state Department of Transportation. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass communicated with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg regarding potential additional resources.
Newsom disclosed on Sunday that the state had been engaged in litigation with the business leasing the storage property where the fire originated. The lease had expired, and the business was in arrears while subleasing the space. Mayor Bass added that the site and lessee were known to the authorities.
California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin acknowledged that storage yards beneath highways are common statewide and nationally. He announced a reevaluation of this practice in the aftermath of the fire.
Amid the incident, 16 homeless individuals residing beneath the highway were safely evacuated to shelters, with no immediate indication that the fire originated from the encampment.
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Mayor Bass expressed concerns about the long-term impact of the fire, drawing parallels to the damage caused by the Northridge earthquake in 1994. She emphasized the uncertainty surrounding the duration of the situation, hinting at potential challenges in the days to come.