Newsom Says Arson Likely Started Massive Fire Under L.A. Freeway
Mario Tama/Getty Images

California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday the massive fire that erupted under the I-10 Freeway near downtown Los Angeles last weekend — disrupting commutes for hundreds of thousands of residents — was likely caused by arson.

“Arson appears to be the likely ignition for this fire,” Newsom said, according to NBC. “That ignition (point and cause) was determined with precision by the fire marshal, Cal Fire, and their teams.”

Newsom reportedly said Cal Fire investigators completed the initial probe and determined “there was malice intent” and “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.

Authorities have not identified a suspect or suspects connected to the possible cause of the inferno, but the governor noted the fire started below the freeway within the fence line of a storage facility filled with pallets, trailers, and vehicles.

According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, the blaze started around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday under Interstate 10 and quickly spread through the storage facility. Authorities said the flames engulfed both sides of 14th Street underneath the portion of the freeway, melted steel guardrails, and damaged a number of firetrucks.

LAFD authorities said 164 firefighters battled the flames through the night to extinguish the fire and defend three nearby commercial buildings from damage.

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 reportedly said the fire covered about 80,000 square feet and that crews extinguished much of the blaze in less than three hours. No injuries were reported.

David Ortiz, public information officer for LAFD, reportedly said a large homeless encampment with tents and RVs dwelled underneath the freeway. Many L.A. residents have speculated online that the fire likely started in the homeless encampment.

Mayor Karen Bass reportedly said there was no initial information to suggest a link between the fire and the homeless population in the area but noted that 16 individuals living in the immediate vicinity of the fire had been provided housing.

“There is no reason to assume the origin of this fire … is because there were unhoused individuals nearby,” Bass said.


Bass said during a news conference on Sunday that the structural damage “calls for the same urgency and effort” as the 1994 Northridge earthquake when I-10 sustained extensive damage but reopened in about three months.

“For those of you that remember the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Caltrans worked around the clock to complete emergency repairs to the freeways,” said Bass.

Newsom declared a state of emergency after the massive fire erupted beneath the major freeway — closing the thoroughfare’s now compromised structure indefinitely and impacting hundreds of thousands of commuters.

Local media reported that the portion of the freeway between Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue — about a seven-mile stretch of road — will remain closed indefinitely, creating a traffic nightmare for an estimated 300,000 commuters.

According to reports, initial testing results on the structural integrity of the freeway came back better than expected. Officials said roughly 100 support columns were damaged, including roughly 10 that were severely damaged.

Although some officials said it’s still too early to determine when commuters will be safe to drive on the road again, Newsom said on Tuesday they expect the freeway to reopen to traffic in 3-5 weeks while the state works 24 hours a day, seven days a week to repair the damages.

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