‘Significant traffic impact’: Part of Interstate 10 in Los Angeles shut down after large pallet fire, authorities say

Editor’s Note: Find CNN’s latest coverage of the I-10 closure in Los Angeles here.

Southern California drivers may face travel headaches this week after a large storage yard fire over the weekend shut down part of Interstate 10, one of the major traffic routes for downtown Los Angeles, authorities said.

A section of I-10, also known as the Santa Monica Freeway, was damaged and remained closed in both directions Sunday near Alameda Street in Los Angeles, a city well known for its traffic congestion issues.

Shortly before 12:30 a.m. Saturday, the Los Angeles Fire Department received reports of a fire at a 200-by-200-foot storage yard “with pallets, trailers and vehicles well involved in fire with buildings that were exposed,” Fire Chief Kristin Crowley said at a news conference Sunday.

“Wind pushed the heat and the flames under the freeway, and across the street ignited a secondary storage yard,” Crowley said.

The span of the blaze covered about 80,000 square feet, according to the fire department. More than 160 firefighters responded, Crowley said.

Several vehicles were also destroyed in the fire, but the fire department said they were able to save three nearby commercial buildings.

Much of the fire was extinguished less than three hours into the incident, according to Crowley, who added there were no injuries.

California Highway Patrol Officer Michael Masir told CNN the closed portion of I-10 “will remain closed until further notice, and there is currently no estimated time for reopening.”

There is currently no timeline on when the roadway will be fully repaired, officials said.

Laura Rubio-Cornejo, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, said at a Sunday news conference the closure is expected to create “a significant traffic impact” to the region.

A Los Angeles firefighter uses a robotic hose to douse a fire under Interstate 10 that severely damaged an overpass downtown Los Angeles on Saturday. - Caltrans District 7/AP
A Los Angeles firefighter uses a robotic hose to douse a fire under Interstate 10 that severely damaged an overpass downtown Los Angeles on Saturday. - Caltrans District 7/AP

“We know the impact that this fire will have on the surrounding communities as people need to drive to work, school and other activities,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said Sunday.

Officials say they are investigating the freeway’s stability as it remains closed.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles County in response to the fire.

“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 in a written statement.

The investigation into what caused the fire will conclude by Monday morning, Newsom said at Sunday’s news conference.

Hazmat teams will work around the clock to clean up the damage on Interstate 10, according to Newsom, who said the scale of the fire’s damage is “substantially greater” than the collapse of a portion of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia in June.

“You name it, we saw it stored at this site,” said Newsom, who toured the location briefly. Wooden pallets, cars filled with gas and boxes of oranges have all been found under the Los Angeles bridge, officials said.

When asked by reporters why the flammable material was allowed to be stored under the bridge, the governor said, “That’s all being assessed.”

Newsom said the tenant of the site is in violation of their lease. “We’re in litigation, their lease has expired and we have been aggressive in addressing concerns as it relates to the lease itself,” he said.

According to Newsom, officials believe the tenant “subleased the space … with multiple subleases, that’s part of the litigation posture.”

Once the hazardous materials investigation is complete, structural engineers will be able to go in to determine the extent of the damage caused by the fire, city and state officials said.

Sunday evening, Bass stressed the fire and damage to Interstate 10 “is an emergency.”

“We are working night and day to make the repairs to restore the freeway,” the mayor said at a news briefing on traffic detours, where she asked travelers to plan for delays and check for alternate routes.

“I need to call on all Angelenos” to come together, the mayor urged, adding the situation will not be “resolved in one or two days.”

CNN’s Travis Nichols contributed to this report.

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