I-10 fire has closed a vital part of a Los Angeles freeway indefinitely, officials warn

by Andrew Wright
Freeway Closure

Los Angeles faces an indefinite closure of a crucial freeway section that accommodates over 300,000 vehicles daily following a significant fire at a storage yard over the weekend, as cautioned by officials on Monday.

The aftermath of the fire left the freeway’s columns charred and damaged, with twisted and blackened guardrails along the deck. Crews have taken measures to secure the most heavily affected section to ensure the safety of workers involved in debris clearance. The extent of structural damage caused by the blaze to Interstate 10 remains uncertain, with engineers conducting assessments on Monday.

This damage to Interstate 10 could have wide-ranging repercussions not only for the city but also for the transportation of goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to a federal highway administration official. President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation.

Los Angeles commuters faced challenges during the first weekday commute following the intense fire beneath an elevated section of I-10. Some freeway exits experienced congestion as drivers were forced to use congested surface streets to circumvent the damaged freeway segment south of downtown. However, some routes appeared to have lighter traffic, indicating that drivers heeded the city’s advice to plan alternative routes or anticipate significant delays. Residents received predawn reminders via their cellphones to consider different routes.

The cause of the fire on Saturday is currently under investigation. Flames ignited around 12:20 a.m. Saturday and engulfed two storage lots in an industrial area beneath the highway, burning parked cars, stacks of wooden pallets, and support poles for high-tension power lines. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries. Authorities evacuated at least 16 homeless individuals living beneath the highway and provided them shelter. There is no immediate indication that the fire originated at the encampment.

More than 160 firefighters responded to the fire, which spread across 8 acres (3 hectares) and burned for three hours. Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt emphasized the significant impact that such disasters can have on both a city and the nation, citing a recent highway closure in Philadelphia due to fire damage.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass acknowledged the disruption the closure would bring to people’s lives, affecting commuting, childcare plans, and the flow of goods and commerce. She emphasized the need for a rebuilding plan and timeline that sets a new standard for speed, although it is expected to be a longer-term endeavor.

Officials noted that the impact of the fire could be reminiscent of the damage caused by the Northridge earthquake in 1994, which resulted in the collapse of freeways, including sections of I-10. Remarkably, the reconstruction of I-10 was completed in just 66 days, considered a remarkable achievement.

Californians have a history of responding effectively to warnings of traffic disruptions, as demonstrated during events like “Carmageddon” in 2011 and “Jamzilla” in 2014. Nevertheless, the extent and duration of the closure due to the recent fire remain uncertain.

California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin announced that two contractors have been hired, one to address hazardous materials under the freeway and the other to stabilize the freeway’s structure. Testing of core samples from the superstructure, decks, and columns is underway to determine the next steps, but officials cautioned that the repair timeline is uncertain. Omishakin also mentioned that storage yards beneath highways are common across the state and the nation, suggesting a need for a reevaluation of this practice following the fire.

The repair efforts will necessitate environmental waivers and federal funding. Omishakin assured that they are diligently working to determine the best course of action to reopen this crucial bridge as swiftly and safely as possible.

In response to the situation, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and directed the state Department of Transportation to seek assistance from the federal government. Governor Newsom also revealed that the state had been engaged in litigation with the business leasing the storage property where the fire began. The lease had expired, and the business had outstanding payments while subleasing the space. This site and lessee were already known to the state, further complicating the situation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Freeway Closure

Q: What caused the closure of the Los Angeles freeway?

A: The closure was triggered by a massive fire at a storage yard beneath the freeway, causing damage to its infrastructure.

Q: How extensive is the damage to Interstate 10?

A: The full extent of structural damage remains uncertain as engineers are currently assessing the situation.

Q: What are the potential implications of this freeway closure?

A: The closure could impact not only the city of Los Angeles but also the transportation of goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Q: Were there any reported injuries as a result of the fire?

A: Fortunately, there were no reported injuries in the fire, although at least 16 homeless individuals living beneath the highway were evacuated.

Q: How long is the freeway expected to remain closed?

A: The duration of the closure is uncertain, and officials are working to determine the best course of action for repairs.

Q: What measures are being taken to address the situation?

A: Two contractors have been hired to address hazardous materials under the freeway and stabilize its structure. Core samples are being tested to guide the repair efforts.

Q: Is there any federal assistance being provided?

A: Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and requested federal assistance from the state Department of Transportation to address the situation.

Q: Have similar incidents occurred in the past in Los Angeles?

A: The article mentions that in the past, Los Angeles has faced freeway closures due to events like earthquakes and crashes, with varying timelines for reconstruction.

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InfoGeek23 November 14, 2023 - 1:15 am

freeway closure cuz of fire? bad news, LA traffic already a nightmare

LAExplorer November 14, 2023 - 2:59 am

no injuries, that’s a relief, but the road damage sounds bad, hope they fix it quick!

TrafficJamSurvivor November 14, 2023 - 3:15 am

reminds me of ‘Carmageddon,’ LA always has traffic probs, stay safe folks!

Reader123 November 14, 2023 - 5:57 am

wow, that’s a big fire, los angeles in trouble, hope they fix road soon

NewsJunkie November 14, 2023 - 1:19 pm

Gov. Newsom’s on it, good to see quick response, hope they get federal help, LA needs it!


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