Assessing the Extent of Damage
LOS ANGELES — Commuters in Los Angeles should anticipate ongoing traffic congestion as crews evaluate the havoc caused by a massive fire that resulted in the closure of a major elevated interstate near downtown, officials announced on Sunday.
Hazardous materials teams have been working tirelessly to remove burnt debris from underneath Interstate 10. This will enable engineers to inspect the support columns and deck of the highway, ensuring that they can withstand the weight of the approximately 300,000 vehicles that pass through this route on a daily basis, according to Governor Gavin Newsom during a press conference.
“This investigation aims to determine the cause of the incident and address the concerns related to hazardous materials and structural integrity,” Newsom explained. “Can we partially open a few lanes? Can we reinforce the columns? Is the bridge deck intact enough to allow for limited lane usage?”
Newsom stated that finding answers to these pressing questions would require a round-the-clock effort. However, officials are not yet able to provide a specific timeline for when the highway will be fully operational again.
Commuters have been strongly advised to either work from home or make use of public transportation options for their journey into downtown Los Angeles. The I-10 closure between Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue will undoubtedly impact traffic on surface streets and other major freeways such as State Route 60 and Interstate 5, warned the California Highway Patrol.
Investigation into the Cause
The exact cause of the fire is currently under investigation. Flames were initially reported around 12:20 a.m. on Saturday, and they quickly spread through two storage lots located in an industrial area beneath the highway. The fire engulfed stacks of wooden pallets, parked cars, and support poles for high-tension power lines, as stated by Fire Chief Kristin M. Crowley. Fortunately, no injuries were reported.
Blaze Tears Through Highway in California
More than 160 firefighters from 26 companies swiftly responded to a massive blaze that ravaged an area equivalent to about six football fields, spanning 8 acres. The fire burned for over three hours, leaving the highway’s columns charred and chipped, with guardrails along the deck twisted and blackened.
In response to the catastrophe, Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency on Saturday and instructed the state Department of Transportation to seek assistance from the federal government.
During a press conference on Sunday, Governor Newsom revealed that the state had been embroiled in legal proceedings with the owner of the business leasing the storage property where the fire originated. Newsom explained that the lease had expired and that the company had fallen behind in payments while subleasing the space. “This is a site we were aware of, this is a lessee we were aware of,” Newsom emphasized.
Toks Omishakin, California’s Secretary of Transportation, acknowledged that storage yards located beneath highways are commonplace both in California and nationwide. However, Omishakin assured the public that this practice would be reevaluated in the wake of the fire.
Mayor Karen Bass confirmed that at least 16 homeless individuals who had been living underneath the highway were evacuated and provided shelter. Although there is no immediate evidence indicating that the fire originated from the encampment, officials are investigating all possible causes.
Bass likened the long-term consequences of the fire to the destruction caused by the infamous Northridge earthquake in 1994, which resulted in the collapse of multiple freeways.
“Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that this tragedy will be resolved within a matter of days,” Bass lamented.