Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that the I-10 freeway fire, which has shut down a major traffic artery in Los Angeles since Saturday and will likely keep it closed for the near future, was caused by arson, with no suspect or suspects being currently being named.
The fire first began in the early hours on Saturday when a fire erupted at a wooden pallet storage yard near the I-10 freeway. The blaze quickly spread to around 8 acres, with the interstate being so damaged that steel guardrails and concrete pillars had begun melting. While the fire was ultimately contained by the LAFD and put out later in the morning with no injuries or loss of life, fire and transportation officials closed a portion of I-10 between the Alameda street exit and the I-5 interchange indefinitely.
In the following several days, Governor Newsom has declared a state of emergency due to the closure of a highway serving 300,000 people daily, Mayor Karen Bass has petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportations for repair funds, and Caltrans has set up detours around the damaged section. However, the questions of who, why, and how around the fire have remained, with investigators looking into the matter non-stop since Saturday. Speculation over the past few days has ranged from the fire being accidental to it being lit by homeless people living in the area.
On Monday afternoon, some of the most pressing questions have been answered. At the site of the fire on Monday, Governor Newsom announced that the fire had been intentionally set.
“Fire investigators made a preliminary determination — there was malice intent,” said Newsom on Monday. “This fire occurred within the fence line of the facility you see behind me. It was arson, and that it was done and set intentionally. That determination of who is responsible is an investigation that is ongoing. The arson determination, issued by the fire marshal of Cal Fire, occurred 12 hours ahead of schedule — enabling the first responder agency to hand the investigation back over to Caltrans on Monday.”
The Governor also stressed that, even though there is still no timeline for reopening, that the damage itself may not have been as bad as originally thought.
“Preliminary samples indicate that the structural integrity of the bridge deck may be much stronger than originally assessed,” added Newsom. “That does not mean that we are moving forward without consideration of a demolition — quite the contrary. We are assessing additional samples. More than 100 columns were damaged in total — and nine or 10 quite severely, the governor noted. Additional analyses will help officials make a decision on whether to tear the structure down or replace the bracing. We’ll continue to move as quickly as we can, safety first and timeliness second.”
Investigations of the I-10 fire
Finally, the site-holder, Apex Development, is also currently being looked into. Specifically, the questions of why they stored so much flammable material beside a major transportation node and the company itself being out of compliance with multiple codes are to be part of the ongoing investigation.
“The state signed an unlawful detainer with Apex in September and is heading to court in early 2024,” continued Newsom. “They stopped paying their rent, they’re out of compliance. They have been subleasing this site to at least five, maybe as many as six, tenants, without authorization.”
Federal officials gave a broad timeline for reopening late on Monday, noting that while it will not be resolved in a matter of days, the damage isn’t extensive enough to last years either, emphasizing that section being out of commission over the next several weeks and months instead.
“This isn’t going to be resolved in a couple of days, and it’s not going to take a couple years,” said Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt. “But whether it’s weeks or months, we’re still too early to tell.
“The ports are still open and the goods will still flow, but when you remove a section of the interstate that carries 300,000 vehicles a day, there’s going to be spillover impacts. The concern there is the quicker we can get this open, the faster we can remove an impediment.”
Mark Wiley, an engineer who specializes in highway structures, added, “This is larger than that Philadelphia fire that shutdown a part of I-95 earlier this year. And the 110 shutdown in 2014. But this is less as damaging as the ’94 earthquake too to the highways. When they say weeks and months, that is probably what it will be. It still hasn’t been fully looked into, and they could find some structural integrity problems still. But, overall, recovery is beginning, the investigation is already producing some key results, and while there have been backups, they aren’t as bad as people thought. What we really need to do is catch and prosecute whoever did this to the max extent of the law. LA is pretty liberal, but mess with the highways and that goes right out the window.”
A more specific reopening timeline and more reports on the arson suspect/suspects are to come later this week.
- Former Google Executive Lexi Reese Drops Out Of 2024 Senate Race - November 29, 2023
- Gov. Newsom Announces A New $300 Million Block Of Funding For Homeless Encampment Removal and Housing - November 28, 2023
- Garvey, Early, and Bradley: Where The Endorsements Will Go - November 28, 2023