Massive fire in or near homeless camp causes indefinite shutdown of busy section of Interstate 10 in Los Angeles

News & Politics

A fire that broke out in or near a homeless encampment under an overpass in Los Angeles caused such a safety hazard that officials had to shut down Interstate 10 for the time being to assess the damage and begin repairs.

Shortly after midnight on Saturday morning, a fire was reported underneath the overpass near East 14th and Alameda Streets. The fire then spread quickly, growing to nearly two acres in size. About 160 firefighters and even a helicopter raced to the scene to douse the flames. Though they got the fire under control within a few hours, the massive blaze still managed to melt guardrails, compromise some of the steel support structure for the overpass, and even damage some of the fire trucks.

The overall destruction was so severe that the stretch of I-10 between Alameda and the East L.A. Interchange — a stretch which 300,000 motorists utilize on any given day — had to be closed indefinitely. That section “will remain closed until further notice, and there is currently no estimated time for reopening,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Michael Masir.

State of emergency declared after fire shuts down 10 Freeway in Los

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Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who has already declared a state of emergency about the fire, tried to address drivers’ concerns about the closed thoroughfare. “The state is mobilizing resources and taking steps to ensure any necessary repairs are completed as soon as possible to minimize the impact on those traveling in and around Los Angeles,” Newsom said.

“Unfortunately, there is no reason to think that this is going to be over in a couple of days,” said L.A. Mayor Karen Bass, also a Democrat. “We will need to come together and all cooperate until the freeway is rebuilt.”

Laura Rubio-Cornejo, the general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, added that the shutdown will likely have a “significant traffic impact.”

Officials have not yet determined the cause of the fire, but it apparently originated on private property filled with flammable and hazardous material. According to the L.A. Times, such materials included “pallets, trailers and vehicles” filled with gasoline. When asked why such materials were stored so close to the Santa Monica Freeway, Newsom responded, “That’s all being assessed.”

Newsom claimed that the state had taken legal action against the property’s lessee, which has allegedly sublet it repeatedly as well. Newsom claimed that the lease has expired and that the entity on the lease fell behind on payments. Newsom did not divulge the name of the entity.

While there are no reported deaths from the fire, several homeless people had to evacuate the area on account of it. A 58-year-old man named Enrique, who told the Times he had been living in his car near the area for the past year, described the frightening scene. “They were big flames, higher than that building,” he said.

The Times added that there were several “makeshift dwellings” behind Enrique and that a “woman walked out of one and wandered the streets with no pants or underwear.” Mayor Bass said that at least 16 homeless people displaced by the fire have since been housed.

In general though, news outlets and local officials have seemingly danced around questions regarding the fire and the nearby homeless encampments. Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Kristin M. Crowley said that “as for any of the encampments in that area, we do not have any direct correlation at this point as to if that’s where [the fire] did start or didn’t.”

Newsom claimed that the city had cleaned up the area all the way back in August 2022. “I am intimately familiar with this site,” he said.

Still, some on X have insisted that the area is a known homeless encampment and that the fire likely started somewhere within it.

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