Inspection Records Reveal Fire and Safety Hazards at Los Angeles I-10 Site Before Arson Fire

by Joshua Brown
Arson Investigation

According to documents made public by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), state investigators had repeatedly identified fire and safety hazards at a leased storage space beneath an elevated section of Interstate 10 in Los Angeles. These concerns came to light before the site was engulfed in an arson fire on November 11, causing significant disruptions and closure of the freeway near downtown Los Angeles.

The arson fire, which was fueled by flammable materials stored under the roadway in violation of the lease agreement, led to a lengthy closure of the I-10, resulting in traffic congestion and extensive repair work. Officials are working tirelessly to reopen all lanes by Tuesday.

Caltrans released the inspection documents just a day before announcing a “person of interest” in the case and sharing two photos as part of a “crime alert notification” on social media. Authorities are now seeking the public’s assistance in identifying this individual.

While the investigators have not yet disclosed the method used to start the fire, it is evident that the blaze was intensified by the presence of pallets, cars, construction materials, hand sanitizer, and other items stored under the freeway. This practice, previously little-known, is now under scrutiny. Governor Gavin Newsom has indicated that the state will reevaluate the practice of leasing land under roads to generate revenue for mass transportation projects.

Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to join Governor Newsom, Mayor Karen Bass, and other officials in Los Angeles on Sunday to address the ongoing fire response and repair efforts.

The land under Interstate 10 has been leased by Apex Development Inc. since 2008, with one of the lease conditions explicitly prohibiting the storage of flammable or hazardous materials. State inspectors, however, had visited the site six times since early 2020 and consistently flagged problematic conditions over the years.

Inspector Daryl Myatt’s 2022 report following a surprise inspection characterized the site as a “filthy unmaintained lease” and noted the presence of prohibited solvents, oils, fuels, and other items. The area had been in use since the mid-1970s and showed signs of neglect.

Owners of two companies that subleased the property also expressed concerns about fire hazards and other dangers associated with homeless individuals residing under the freeway. Governor Newsom previously stated that while subleasing can be legal with permission from state and federal regulators, Apex did not have such permission.

In September, the state initiated a lawsuit against Apex, claiming unpaid rent totaling $78,000. A hearing for the case is scheduled for next year.

The most recent spot inspection, conducted just over a month before the November 11 fire, found “numerous lease violations,” though the details were not disclosed in the documents released on Friday.

Caltrans had communicated the need for addressing violations, especially those posing safety risks, to Apex Development, according to an agency statement.

Apex Development’s attorney, Mainak D’Attaray, has stated that the company should not be held responsible for the fire and has made improvements to the property. He noted that the company had been denied access to the premises since October.

Izzy Gordon, a spokesperson for the governor, disagreed with D’Attaray’s assertion that Apex was not at fault. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) believes the fire was caused by arson in an area that Apex was responsible for maintaining.

Brandon Richards, another spokesperson for Governor Newsom, reiterated the governor’s call for Caltrans to conduct a comprehensive review of all leased sites under freeways across California. It remains unclear whether disciplinary actions will be taken within Caltrans in light of the inspection findings.

Regarding the person of interest in the arson case, the governor’s office has urged anyone with information to contact a tip hotline. The individual is described as a man aged 30 to 35, approximately 6 feet tall, and weighing between 170 to 190 pounds. Further details about the identification process were not immediately available.

The released photographs depict the individual wearing blue shorts, a black hooded sweatshirt, a green scarf, and a brace on his right knee. The bulletin notes visible burn injuries on his left leg.

The investigation into the arson fire is being conducted by Cal Fire and the State Fire Marshal’s office. The mayor’s office has not provided a response to inquiries at this time.

Fortunately, no injuries were reported as a result of the fire. However, approximately 16 homeless individuals living in an encampment under the freeway were relocated to shelters.

The impacted stretch of I-10, used by an estimated 300,000 vehicles daily, plays a crucial role in the city’s transportation network, connecting various major highways. In response to the closure, the city has encouraged commuters to explore alternative transportation options such as buses, trains, or working remotely to mitigate traffic congestion in the area.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Arson Investigation

Q: What caused the fire under Interstate 10 in Los Angeles?

A: The fire under Interstate 10 in Los Angeles was caused by arson, although the exact method used to start the fire has not been disclosed.

Q: Were there any safety violations identified at the site before the arson fire?

A: Yes, state investigators had repeatedly identified fire and safety hazards at the site before the arson fire. These violations included the storage of flammable materials under the roadway, which was in violation of the lease agreement.

Q: What actions are being taken in response to the fire and safety violations?

A: Governor Gavin Newsom has announced a reassessment of the practice of leasing land under roads to generate revenue for mass transportation projects. Additionally, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is conducting a comprehensive review of all leased sites under freeways across California. Legal action has been taken against Apex Development Inc., the leaseholder, for unpaid rent and maintenance issues.

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

A: Fortunately, there were no reported injuries resulting from the fire. However, approximately 16 homeless individuals living in an encampment under the freeway were relocated to shelters for their safety.

Q: What is the current status of Interstate 10 following the fire?

A: Repair crews have been working around the clock to fix the damage caused by the fire. Officials expect all lanes of Interstate 10 to reopen by Tuesday, following several days of closure due to the fire and repair efforts.

More about Arson Investigation

  • Caltrans Official Website: The official website of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) where you can find updates and information related to transportation in California.

  • Governor Gavin Newsom’s Official Website: Governor Gavin Newsom’s official website for news and updates on state matters and announcements.

  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire): Cal Fire’s official website for information on firefighting and fire protection in California.

  • Interstate 10: Wikipedia page providing background information on Interstate 10 in California, including its importance in the state’s transportation network.

  • Apex Development Inc.: The official website of Apex Development Inc., the leaseholder mentioned in the text, for more details about the company and its operations.

  • Los Angeles Mayor’s Office: The official website of the Mayor’s Office in Los Angeles, which may provide updates and statements related to the fire and its aftermath.

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NewsBuff55 November 20, 2023 - 1:38 pm

Newsom’s call for review sounds legit. Gotta prevent such fires and keep the roads safe. #SafetyFirst

JohnDoe23 November 20, 2023 - 2:34 pm

omg, dis arson fire is nuts! da safety hazards b4 rly concerning. hope dey fix i-10 fast.

InfoSeeker123 November 20, 2023 - 7:33 pm

Homeless folks being relocated is important. Hope they get the help they need. #CommunitySupport

TrafficJamSurvivor November 20, 2023 - 7:37 pm

I-10 closure was a nightmare. Glad they’re fixing it. Need my commute back to normal!

SeriousReader007 November 20, 2023 - 9:40 pm

This is a serious issue, y’all. Arson is a crime, and those safety violations should’ve been dealt with earlier!


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