The City of Angels, on Saturday 11th of November, witnessed an integral artery of its traffic system being set ablaze. A massive fire consumed a portion of the Interstate 10 freeway in downtown Los Angeles, causing a stretch of the freeway between Alameda Street and East Los Angeles interchange to be closed.
It further led to other streets near the freeway being closed, worsening the already hectic traffic LA drivers know all too well.
This article delves deeper into the harrowing details of the I-10 fire, carefully examining its origins, those responsible for it, and how long it’ll take before the freeway is re-opened for public use. This will keep you from interference with your scheduled commutes.
So grab your fireproof popcorn and join us as we unravel the heated drama along the I-10 freeway in Los Angeles.
According to news reports, the fire started early Saturday at around midnight in one of the open space storage yards underneath the freeway, North of 14th Street.
The area is known to house(no pun intended) several homeless people and some tenants of Caltrans and their subtenants, who store various items in these yards. One of these yards stored wooden pallets and is believed to be the fire's starting point.
The flames spread rapidly under the freeway to ignite a second pallet yard, ultimately engulfing 8 acres of the I-10 freeway. It burned everything in its path, from the countless stacks of pallets to the support poles for high-tension power lines. Vehicles under the freeway and those parked near it were also not spared.
Initial investigations claimed that the cause of the fire was arson, with many residents quickly pointing the finger at the homeless people who had been living there. To this, the Mayor, Karen Bass, had to appeal by urging people not to conclude that they had to be the culprits.
The fire was reportedly so hot it burned through guardrails, damaged steel reinforced concrete columns, and several vehicles, including a firetruck. It burned for around 3 hours across 450 feet before a team of over 160 LA firefighters managed to put it out.
The Los Angeles Times also reported that unnamed sources claimed that hand sanitizers stored in one of the yards beneath the I-10 may have fueled the inferno because of its high flammability. Hand sanitizers and the wooden pallets in one place? Talk about a disaster waiting to happen.
The 10 freeway between Alameda West, and East LA Interchange (a stretch of about 2 miles) was closed for repairs.
Subsequently, heavier than normal traffic congestion was witnessed around the area as people pined for alternate passable routes, with drivers spending up to double the usual time it would take them to sit in traffic.
Plenty of property damage has been reported. Several food businesses in downtown LA that sold through carts and trucks were shut down due to their storage facilities having been affected by the fire. Other vehicles that weren't necessarily food-related were also engulfed by the flames, causing significant losses.
Other local businesses also saw a rapid drop in sales since customers hardly had the time to pass by these shops due to the crazy traffic that ensued.
Lastly, we can’t forget that the homeless individuals encamped in that area had to evacuate the premises promptly and find new places to take shelter.
Having stretched over 8 acres, damages affected a significant transport route in LA that ferries over 300,000 vehicles daily and binds the east and west of the county. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in a press briefing, asking for assistance from the White House to fast-track the repairs.
Because of the intense heat of the fire, more than 100 columns along the stretch of the freeway were damaged, with nine or ten severely impacted. On assessment, it was confirmed that there was no need to demolish and rebuild that portion of the road but rather just repair what was damaged, which was a significant relief for the city folks.
It had earlier been stated that the road would be reopened in an estimated 3-5 weeks. However, new updates state that the highway section will be up and running again around the 22nd, just in time for Thanksgiving! A true testament to the urgency with which the issue was met.
As you wait for the road to be reopened, you can still make it wherever you need to be. So worry not, dear drivers!
You are advised to transfer to the 60, the 110, the 101, or the 5 from the freeway as alternatives for your drive. The city has also advised Angelenos to be more open to using public transportation to ease traffic jams, or to work from the comfort of their homes to avoid the hassle altogether.
On Tuesday, the 14th, Gov. Gavin Newsom concluded they had proof of the fire having been intentionally started, and with malicious intent. However, information on the responsible persons was kept from the public.
The governor and fire marshal later informed reporters that the investigators were still seeking to identify the person(s) responsible for the arson, and they've appealed for the public's help in identifying those responsible through any information or video footage.
On Saturday, the 18th, Cal Fire released photos of a suspect sought in the alleged arson. The person was described as a man of unknown race, approximately 6' tall and 170 to 190 pounds. The individual was captured on surveillance footage wearing a black hoodie, blue shorts, grey shoes, a green scarf, a knee brace on his right knee, and a dark backpack.
Cal Fire also revealed that the suspect had visible burn marks on his left leg as he fled the crime scene.
The I-10 fire has been a significant inconvenience to so many commuters, and in light of the increased traffic congestion, you might find yourself on the wrong side of the cops.