ELYSIAN VALLEY – More than 200 firefighters were joined by allied agencies Saturday morning in responding to a dramatic non-injury tanker truck fire and fuel spill at a freeway interchange in northeast Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Fire Department was summoned at 10:31 AM on July 13, 2013 by multiple 9-1-1 callers reporting a vegetation fire alongside the northbound Golden State (I-5) Freeway near Stadium Way. With a large plume of smoke visible from a distance, the LAFD air and ground response was augmented for what was believed to be a large swath of burning grass and brush between the freeway and environmentally sensitive Los Angeles River.
Within moments of their arrival, LAFD crews realized the vegetation had been ignited by a big rig fuel tanker truck and trailer that were fully ablaze in a nearby tunnel that connects the northbound Glendale (SR-2) Freeway and the northbound Golden State (I-5) Freeway.
Heartened by news that the truck driver had escaped the blaze unharmed and that no other persons were in direct peril, firefighters began a multifaceted air and ground attack on an inferno fueled by the truck’s 8,500 gallon cargo of gasoline.
With volatile fumes entering freeway and street drains, there were a handful of small explosions that displaced manhole covers in the area, leading officials to warn nearby residents to avoid stormwater drains in the neighborhood. Though some fuel entered and ignited along a half-mile section of the Los Angeles River, it was limited to a side channel contained by an earthen berm and vegetation.
A joint command that included the Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), worked in close coordination with more than a dozen safety, health and environmental organizations to effectively battle flames, limit collateral harm and speed recovery.
The battle against flames in the tunnel and river, with a simultaneous effort to limit fuel-laden runoff and abate hazards, continued over a large area for more than six hours, requiring a constant rotation of LAFD personnel.
A strong outreach via traditional and social media was used to inform residents and travelers in the area, including tens of thousands arriving for a 4:15 PM game at Dodger Stadium – which was not endangered by the incident.
With flames extinguished, Caltrans structural and maintenance engineers inspected the still warm concrete tunnel – and developed a game plan for its extensive repair, as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other environmental response agencies began a recovery assessment of nearby wetlands. Responders – many in protective gear, working in the summer heat well into the pre-dawn hours Sunday, were aided by Community Emergency Response Team volunteers who oversaw an LAFD approved delivery and distribution of cool beverages.
Caltrans identified and coordinated temporary lane and highway closures near the effected interchange, including a busy section of the Golden State Freeway, reportedly used by as many as 300,000 vehicles per day.
The California Highway Patrol continues to investigate the genesis of the tanker fire, specifically whether a collision or some type of mishap in or near the tunnel was responsible for the conflagration.
The Los Angeles Fire Department reported no responder or civilian injuries. Firefighters are encouraging motorists to stay informed regarding local highway closures, and to consider the 5-1-1 telephone number and information system as a timely and effective way to obtain details about traffic, transit and transportation throughout the region.
Dispatched LAFD Units: E201 T1 E44 E4 E250 T50 E56 E12 T12 E212 H0F H0B BC1 BC2 E9 H4 H5 H6 T20 E220 E90 RA820 RA20 E202 T2 T9 E16 E447 E10 E211 T11 DC1 H0E EM1 BC4 WT77 E77 FT17 E3 T3 E203 E2 RA850 FT60 E61 E64 E235 T35 E215 T15 BC5 H3 E27 RA801 EA1 T60 E260 RA60 RA56 EM11 E21 T21 E221 SQ21 RA21 RA821 HL1 CP3 RM2 RA1 RA55 EM14 RT83 RT59 RA801 SQ21 RA56 E42 E11 E13 T29 E229 E14 E94 CV20 CV21 RA56 RA17 E29 E37 E33 E15 E48 JT2
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Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department