OAN’s Stephanie Stahl
1:23 PM – Sunday, November 12, 2023
A state of emergency has been declared following a pallet fire beneath the I-10 Freeway, leading to disruptions and damage in downtown Los Angeles.
Caltrans authorities and engineers are actively assessing the situation to determine the freeway’s safety for reopening. Their target is to open at least one lane on Monday, with ongoing evaluations of the extent of the damage.
The Los Angeles Fire Department reported the fire at 1:46 a.m. PT at a storage yard beneath the 10 Freeway, located at Alameda and 14th streets in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday. A SigAlert was issued, resulting in the closure of the freeway and subsequent traffic congestion.
Caltrans has announced an indefinite closure of the freeway, providing no specific timeline for its reopening.
In response to the fire, Governor Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County.
In a statement released Saturday evening, Newsom said the state is “mobilizing resources & taking steps to ensure any necessary repairs are completed on the I-10 as soon as possible to minimize the impact on those traveling in & around Los Angeles.”
LA Mayor Karen Bass (D-Calif.) also released a statement Saturday, saying in part “I have directed all city departments to immediately plan for how to address increased traffic due to this closure. We are approaching this issue with absolute urgency.”
A group of 160 LA firefighters and 26 companies were on scene Saturday to battle the intense flames.
“It’s quite a large population of people experiencing homelessness living out here on these streets and RVs and makeshift homes, and they were all driven back by the heat but none of them luckily were injured,” David Ortiz, Public Information Officer for LAFD, said.
Under the freeway, a substantial amount of combustible materials, including pallets, shipping containers, and vehicles, fueled the fire. Firefighters unleashed over 1,000 gallons of water per minute to put out the blaze, surpassing the hydrant system’s capacity, according to Ortiz.
Homeless encampments and storage containers were nearby, contributing to the intensity of the fire. The elevated temperatures resulted in structural damage to the freeway and partial melting of the front of a fire truck. The fire’s severity led it to cross the street, penetrating another storage yard.
The heat melted guard rails on the off-ramp and affected some freeway pillars. The closure of the freeway will continue until Caltrans ensures its safety. Traffic was redirected eastbound at Alameda and westbound at Santa Fe, according to the LAFD.
The California Highway Patrol anticipates a potentially prolonged closure as city engineers evaluate structural integrity.
The investigation into the fire’s cause is ongoing, with no reported injuries.
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