A massive fire that has shuttered a mile-long stretch of the I-10 freeway in Los Angeles was “set intentionally” with “malice intent,” Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed Monday.
The fire was started at around 12:20 a.m. Saturday at a storage yard beneath the freeway, just south of downtown L.A. The fire spread under the freeway and through another storage yard, causing chunks of concrete from the I-10 to break off. No injuries were reported.
A citywide cell phone alert went out early Monday morning, urging people to use public transit or work remotely if possible. With both sides of a major L.A. artery closed, the city braced for a transportation “crisis.”
Many Angelenos appeared to heed the call. Although traffic was heavy, officials’ worst fears were avoided at rush hour. But it’s not clear how many more days workers will see their route disrupted. Officials say they have no idea how long it will take to reopen the I-10, which typically sees around 300,000 cars a day.
Karen Bass toured the area Sunday with Newsom, who has declared a state of emergency.
“I have directed all city departments to urgently respond to the impacts of this closure by ensuring that there is a plan for the hundreds of thousands of Angelenos who commute or live by this incident, and I am in touch with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Governor Newsom and our state partners to ensure that there are no barriers to getting this portion of the 10 Freeway up and running as fast as possible,” Bass said in a statement. “While the repairs are being made, it is my top priority that we provide as much information as possible to ensure that our communities, our commuters, our businesses and all those who are impacted by this are well informed each step of the way.”
It’s not yet clear who set the fire or why. There was a large homeless encampment in the area, which has led to speculation that members of an unhoused community could be to blame. An investigation is underway.