The occupants of 10 to 12 homes remained evacuated Friday following this week’s Maywood warehouse fire, authorities said.
The fire was fully extinguished, and all units cleared out of the area at 8 p.m. Thursday following a struggle spanning three days, Los Angeles County Supervising Fire Dispatcher Miguel Ornelas said.
Lt. Alex Salinas of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s East Los Angeles Station told City News Service that public health officials will assess the scene and determine when the remaining evacuees can return home.
Authorities permitted those who live on the south side of 52nd Street to go back into their homes Wednesday evening, but residents who live on the street’s north end — closer to the site of the blaze — were not immediately allowed to return to their residences.
Officials said they wanted to analyze samples of the ash and residue that settled on local homes as a further measure of safety testing. Air testing was also underway in the area.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency began checking the site for “heavy metals” about 2 p.m. Thursday, according to county fire Inspector Gustavo Medina.
The results should be in by Saturday morning, Medina said, and “if the results are positive, a good reading, then we’ll be able to have the residents back into their homes, hopefully by (sometime) Saturday.”
The three-alarm fire in the 3500 block of Fruitland Avenue ripped through a pair of commercial buildings early Tuesday, sparking a series of strong explosions and sending a thick plume of noxious smoke over the region.
Firefighters found flames shooting through the roofs of two structures, one of which was a metal-recycling plant. Crews began pouring water on the flames, but the oxygen from the water created a chemical reaction with the burning magnesium, one of the metals being stored at the facility and awaiting recycling, producing what one fire official described as “fireballs” and setting off strong explosions.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Deputy Chief John Tripp said fire crews realized Wednesday that most of the magnesium in the warehouse had burned, allowing crews to again pour water on the remaining fire without fear of more explosions.
Many of the evacuated residents sought shelter at the Maywood YMCA. A sheriff’s official said 138 people spent Tuesday night at the shelter. About 60 were allowed to enter their homes Wednesday to retrieve some needed items.
Dangerous conditions imposed by “tons” of chemicals at the site hampered firefighters’ efforts to douse the flames, authorities said. Firefighters were ordered to use breathing apparatus because of the fumes from the magnesium and a number of other substances at the business.
The fire was reported about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in a warehouse that serves Gemini Plastic Enterprises. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said that in addition to magnesium, other metals such as coppers, zinc and lead were present at the metal-recycling plant, along with chemicals and propane.
“We had some very violent, ferocious explosions in the facility,” Osby said.
Crews were able to prevent the blaze from spreading from the two commercial structures that were destroyed to other businesses and nearby homes.
Citing court records, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that Da Xiong Pan, the owner of the recycling facility, was recently charged with multiple felonies for alleged improper storage and disposal of hazardous materials at the site.
Pan, who owns Panda International Trading Co. at 3570 Fruitland Ave., pleaded not guilty to five felony charges last month, according to The Times.
—City News Service