Southern California

Warehouse Fire Burns for More Than 24 Hours, Residents Wait to Return Home

Magnesium inside the building southeast of downtown Los Angeles sent "massive fireballs" over the neighborhood

A warehouse fire that set off "ferocious" explosions southeast of downtown Los Angeles and sent smoke over a widespread part of the county is "not fully out yet," authorities said Wednesday morning.

The fire and explosions, fueld by barrels of magnesium, were reported around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday at a plastics business in the 3700 block of Fruitland Avenue, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Thousands of customers were without power early Tuesday, about 300 residents were evacuated and a smoke advisory was issued for Los Angeles County, where residents from south of downtown LA to the San Fernando Valley and beyond reported an odor from the fire.

Air quality tests have revealed no traces of chemicals in the smoke, authorities said at a Wednesday morning news conference. Air quality can be monitored by area here.

The smoke advisory remained in effect and about 140 residents had still not returned home Wednesday morning as firefighters continued to battle the stubborn fire.  Several large explosions were reported overnight Tuesday, sending fire balls into the night sky that were captured on cameras by nearby residents.

"There's a large amount of burning magnesium," said LA County Fire Department inspector Richard Licon. "It's very rare to have large quantities of that.

"We have to smother the material with a special firefighting powder. We have to eliminate the smoke. If we don't do that, we cannot let people repopulate back to their homes."

Some residents to the south of the warehouse stayed at a nearby YMCA. 

No injuries were reported.

Firefighters positioned on nearby rooftops prevented the fire from spreading to residences. At least two commercial structures were damaged, said LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.


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The magnesium was ground down to what fire officials described as a dust-like consistency, making it more volatile. The fire balls were created when the fire and magnesium mixed with water. 

"That's typical when magnesium heats up and we douse water on it. It produces these massive fire balls," said Los Angeles County Fire Department inspector Gustavo Medina.

A cause was not immediately determined.

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