While no timetable was yet available for when a portion of the busy 10 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles might be repaired and reopened following a devastating pallet fire, local and state officials announced an investigation into the fire’s cause and origin would be completed by early Monday morning.
Once that investigation was complete, officials said contracts were already in place for repairs to begin in earnest with a “24/7” operation and that every possible effort would be made to get those repairs completed as safely and quickly as possible.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a Sunday afternoon news conference the investigation into the fire’s cause and origin would be done by 6 a.m. Monday and that a hazardous materials assessment would proceed.
Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass toured the site both by air above and on the ground, Newsom said. During the assessment, Newsom noted “dozens and dozens of columns” had been damaged. He said the freeway’s bridge deck was the primary focus.
Newsom said it was being determined whether the bridge could collapse. He said repairing the freeway, which is used by more than 300,000 people daily, was a top priority. The freeway, a key part of the local transportation network, holds “significant consequence to the economy and the health and safety of Angelenos,” Newsom said.
“The answer is yes, I don’t even care what the question is, the answer is yes in terms of what (Bass’) needs are and what the county’s needs are,” Newsom said.
The rubbish fire was first called in about 12:22 a.m. Saturday in the 1700 block of East 14th Street, Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Kristen Crowley said. Wind pushed the flames under the freeway and across the street igniting a secondary storage yard.
She said the span of the incident encompassed nearly eight acres and 164 firefighters worked the blaze. By the time the fire was doused, an LAFD engine was severely damaged and the freeway above had seen extensive damage, but no injuries to firefighters or civilians were reported.
Firefighters also kept the fire from spreading to nearby commercial buildings, Crowley said.
The 10 Freeway has been closed in both directions between Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue since early Saturday morning. Connectors to the 5, 101 and 60 freeways were also closed Sunday.
Toks Omishakin, secretary of transportation with Caltrans, said repairing the freeway would be a significant challenge. He said contracted crews took hazardous materials samples to a lab for testing Sunday morning.
Once that testing is complete, if deemed safe, crews can start working to remove debris, Omishakin said, then structural engineers will get under the bridge to conduct sound tests of the columns.
Newsom, who proclaimed a state of emergency in L.A. County to support the state’s response to the fire beneath the freeway, said Sunday that no regulations would get in the way of efforts to reopen the freeway.
Newsom said the state had 2 million pounds of steel available to move in immediately.
The fire occurred at a site Newsom and other officials had attended a recent cleanup of a homeless encampment in the area, he said.
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Newsom also said the company that leases the property where the pallet yard caught fire was in violation of the terms of their lease, but didn’t provide more details because of ongoing litigation.
During the fire, the Department of Water and Power boosted water pressure in the area for the higher volume needed, officials said. Firefighters also dealt with downed power lines, Crowley said.
The bulk of the fire was extinguished within three hours, Crowley said.
Officials planned to put out further details in another news conference Sunday and planned to hold an additional news conference early Monday to discuss the findings of the investigation on the cause and origin of the fire.