Massive Homeless Encampment Fire Shuts Down Los Angeles Freeway Indefinitely

A massive fire at a homeless encampment beneath an underpass in downtown Los Angeles has shut down the 10 freeway indefinitely.

The fire occurred on Saturday in two storage areas beneath the freeway that also hosted a sprawling homeless encampment.

“The incident, which closed westbound and eastbound lanes of the busy freeway between Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue, will significantly affect traffic in the area, officials said at a news conference Sunday, without offering a timetable for reopening,” noted the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said Angelenos should expect the freeway to be close for some time.

Firefighters look at the their Fire Engine 17 that got burnt in a massive pallet fire under I-10 Freeway overpass at 1700 block of East 14th Street on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Aerial views of the 10 Freeway a day after a large pallet fire burned below, shutting the freeway to traffic.  (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty)

Aerial views of the 10 Freeway a day after a large pallet fire burned below, shutting the freeway to traffic. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty)

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

Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom also declared a state of emergency to expedite the repairs, noting the “anxiety of millions and millions that live in this region.”

Roughly 300,000 vehicles travel the 10 freeway daily. As to when it can reopen, the Los Angeles Times described the process thusly:

Several things must occur before construction can begin — starting with an investigation into the cause of the fire. It is expected to be finished by 6 a.m. Monday. Mitigation of hazardous materials also needs to be completed before a detailed structural analysis of the damaged portions of the freeway can commence. Engineers will be inspecting the freeway’s columns and bridge deck.

This could be the most notable freeway closure in the Southland since the 1994 Northridge earthquake buckled portions of the 10 and other routes. The shutdown is expected to increase congestion on adjacent freeways where traffic is being diverted, among them the 5, 110 and 710.

California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin said the repairs will be a “significant” challenge. “This is not going to be an easy task for our structural engineers at Caltrans,” Omishakin noted.

Los Angeles saw a massive wildfire in 2017 that also sparked from a homeless encampment, burning through wealthy neighborhoods, and causing millions upon millions of dollars in damage.

“The fire that burned through one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country last week started as a cooking fire at a homeless encampment, according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Fire Department,” the Times noted at the time.

“Homeless people had been living in the neighborhood — Bel-Air, in northwest Los Angeles — making their encampment near an underpass of the 405 freeway along Sepulveda Boulevard for several years,” it added.

Paul Roland Bois directed the award-winning feature filmEXEMPLUM, which can be viewed for FREE on YouTube or Tubi. A high-quality, ad-free stream can also be purchased on Google Play or Vimeo on Demand. Follow him on Twitter @prolandfilms or Instagram @prolandfilms.

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