A preliminary investigation determined thethat indefinitely closed the I-10 Freeway in Downtown Los Angeles was intentionally started with “malice intent,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday afternoon.
“They made a preliminary determination there was malice intent,” Newsom said of the arson investigation. “This fire occurred within the fence line … that it was arson and that it was done and set intentionally.”
Detectives with CalFire are still working to determine who set the blaze.
“That’s an investigation that can be aided by the people of the region, not just those that may have been witnesses nearby,” Newsom said, asking the public to come forward if they have any indication of someone involved in the fire’s ignition.
People with information can contact an anonymous tip line at 1-800-468-4408.
Mayor Karen Bass, who also spoke at the press conference, made sure to urge the public not to jump to the conclusion that the fire was set by homeless people in the area, 16 of whom were living in the immediate vicinity when the fire erupted on Saturday.
“There is no reason to assume that the origin of this fire, or the reason this fire happened, is because there were unhoused individuals nearby,” she said.
All 16 of those unhoused people have been provided temporary housing, Bass noted.
Newsom disclosed that crews are still working around the clock and that the structural analysis remains ongoing. However, they were able to learn that the freeway deck, which they expressed concern about, is “much stronger than originally assessed.”
Despite this, work will continue in the coming days to ensure that the road is completely safe before the return of traffic.
Surveyors say that nearly 100 columns of the freeway were damaged in the fire, at least nine of which were severely impacted. Crews are working to brace the freeway deck as they repair the damaged portions of the structure.
Subsequent sample testing is underway to determine “whether or not we’re tearing this down and replacing it or we’re continuing the retrofit, and the repairs and the bracing,” Newsom said.
The massive fire, which was first reported as a “rubbish fire” at around 12:20 a.m. Saturday morning, erupted in a large storage yard under the freeway, scorching pallets, trailers and vehicles stored in the area.
As a result, the freeway, which acts as one of the primary thoroughfares into the downtown Los Angeles area, has been closed since early Saturday morning, creating aMonday morning.
It is still unclear when the road will be reopened.
On Sunday, Gov. Newsomfor the incident in order to secure the necessary funding and resources for repair as quickly as possible.
Apex Development, the Calabasas-based owner of the property where the fire started on Saturday, was unavailable for comment when approached by KCAL News.
Newsom says that the members of Apex Development “have been bad actors” and have been engaged in a litigious battle with the state for “some time.”
He says that the company has been subleasing the property to as many as six tenants without authorization, that they have stopped paying rent and are out of compliance with state regulations.
“What was legally afforded this lessee, and recall, they have an unlawful retainer for a reason, was the open storage — broadly defined — of non-flammable materials, non-explosive materials and vehicles, operating vehicles,” Newsom said. “We saw those vehicles and we certainly saw a lot of pallets and we certainly saw a lot of open storage.”