Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that arson was the likely cause of a massive fire that burned under the 10 Freeway on Saturday, causing extensive damages and backed up traffic in the downtown Los Angeles area.
The 10 Freeway was shut down in both directions as fire crews worked to put out the flames. The closure has been impacting hundreds of thousands of people, especially those who live, work, and go to school nearby.
City officials have been present at the site of the incident over the weekend, working with Caltrans, the Los Angeles Fire Department and other companies.
As the cleanup process continues, drivers were advised to find alternate routes.
There was no immediate information on a possible arson suspect or suspects, but Newsom said at a Monday afternoon news conference the fire was set within the fence-line of the storage business operating below the freeway, which was littered with vehicles, pallets and other materials.
Newsom said Cal Fire investigators who completed their initial probe Sunday night determined “that it was arson, and that it was done and set intentionally. The determination of who was responsible is an investigation that is ongoing.”
He said investigators had some preliminary tips, but he urged anyone with information about the start of the blaze to come forward and call a hotline at 800-468-4408.
“Arson appears to be the likely ignition for this fire,” Newsom said. “That ignition (point and cause) was determined with precision by the fire marshal, Cal Fire and their teams.”
No specifics were released about how the fire was ignited.
Mayor Karen Bass stressed there was no initial information that would link the fire to homeless people in the area, and she urged the public not to jump to that conclusion. She said there were 16 homeless people living in the immediate vicinity of the fire area, and they have all since been placed in housing.
“There is no reason to assume the origin of this fire … is because there were unhoused individuals nearby,” Bass said.
Meanwhile, commuters on Monday dealt with the first weekday commutes since the freeway was closed in the area of the East L.A. Interchange due to the early Saturday morning fire. An estimated 300,000 people use the stretch of freeway every day, and motorists were forced to find alternate routes, use public transit or work remotely if possible. With the freeway expected to remain closed indefinitely, motorists could be searching for alternatives for weeks.
Questions continued to linger about how long the freeway stretch will be closed. Engineers were still collecting core samples of concrete and rebar from the freeway and the dozens of support columns to determine if the structures can be repaired or if the entire freeway might need to be torn down and rebuilt.
Newsom said initial testing results indicated that the structural integrity of the freeway deck was better than initially anticipated, offering some hope that freeway supports and the road itself could undergo a much shorter repair process. But he said it was still too early to make that determination, noting that there were roughly 100 support columns that were damaged and needed to be inspected, with nine or 10 of them severely damaged.
He said more test results from early samples are expected back Tuesday morning.
Source: NBC Los Angeles