(The Center Square) – While the cause of the fire that shut down a major section of the I-10 in Los Angeles that carries 300,000 cars per day is still unknown, the underpass area was noted for its large homeless population. According to the Los Angeles Fire Department via CBS, 80% of fires in downtown Los Angeles are caused by homeless individuals, a number that declines to 54% citywide.
California governor Gavin Newsom shared the site of the fire is owned by the California Department of Transportation but that another entity had been continuing to use the space under an expired lease, and that said entity is in arrears and had been subleasing that space to someone else.
According to City of Los Angeles officials, there were 16 homeless individuals living under the highway in the immediate area, and those individuals have since been given shelter.
When Los Angeles Fire Department first arrived on the scene, they were responding to what was reported as a “rubbish fire” that had by then engulfed a storage yard filled with wood pallets, vehicles, and trailers.
The fire burned so hot that it was able to damage the concrete and steel beams holding up the I-10 freeway, one of the busiest highways in America. The two mile shut down section of the I-10 near downtown is crucial for connecting the city’s more affordable residential exurbs to the east with major jobs centers downtown, in Hollywood, and the Westside. While LA Metro has increased the frequency of buses and trains to meet anticipated increase in public transportation demand, given that poorer individuals tend to commute the farthest and don’t have access to dense public transit, the shutdowns are creating significant challenges for LA commuters.
“This morning, I want to speak directly to the 300,000 people who would normally drive on this stretch of the 10, and to those who live, work or have appointments or schools in the area. As we made clear yesterday, this was a huge fire, and the damage will not be fixed in an instant,” Bass said in a public statement. “Losing this stretch of the 10 freeway will take time and money from people’s lives and businesses. It’s disrupting in every way.”