Fire And ClosureThe 10 Freeway Fire And Shut Down in Los Angeles

November 29, 20230

The Blaze that Halted the City: Understanding the I-10 Freeway Shutdown

On Nov. 13, a large storage yard fire caused the shutdown of Freeway Interstate 10. A section of the I-10 freeway was damaged and remained closed in both directions near Alameda Street in Los Angeles. The fire, believed to be arson, was fueled by wood pallets stored under the freeway. The leased land, managed by a private company subleasing it to small blue-collar businesses at higher rents, hosted various operations including a pallet distributor, recycler, mechanic shop, and garment factory supplier between freeway pillars on East 14th Street, adjacent to homeless encampments.

Negligence or Oversight? Exploring the Circumstances Surrounding the Arson Allegations

Despite regular inspections, the conditions did not prompt immediate concern from state officials. However, photos from January 2023 and March 2022 reveal substantial stockpiles of pallets and other flammable materials visible from several streets and a freeway off-ramp on the property.

Miguel Custodio’s Insights on Liability and Responsibility on the 10 Freeway

KNX News turned to co-founder and personal injury attorney Miguel Custodio to offer insights into the legal implications at play with the 10 Freeway fire. “What is going to be important is whether or not Caltrans was on notice or was reasonably supposed to have been on notice of all the materials that were being stored underneath the bridge.”

Miguel argues that by all accounts, Caltrans — the property owner — was doing regular inspections of that area and is the entity to blame.

Lease Disputes and Legal Loopholes: The Caltrans vs. Apex Development Inc. Saga

Caltrans inspected the property on Oct. 6, prompted by a lawsuit against its tenant, Apex Development Inc., for lease noncompliance, including nonpayment of rent for over a year and unauthorized subleasing.

In his interview with KNX, Miguel analyzed the fire safety measures at the site. “If you see pallets stacked up, on top of other items that were flammable, I don’t see how Caltrans could’ve been okay with that. Either they were not doing the inspections, or they somehow looked the other way and said ‘well, if we’re getting some lease money from the tenants, then we’re fine with it.’

“We know that Apex stopped paying their rent and that’s why they were actually already sued by Caltrans… At the end of the day, everybody’s going to be suing everybody.”

The Fallout: From Homeless Encampments to National Policy Changes

The lease agreement between Caltrans and Apex specified permissible uses for the property, restricting activities that required Caltrans and Federal Highway Administration approval. Apex, represented by attorney Mainak D’Attaray, acknowledged annual Caltrans inspections and contested the claim of illegal subleasing, stating that Caltrans was aware of the sublessees and their operations.

Apex claims they attempted to report previous fires started by homeless individuals to the Los Angeles Fire Department but they received dismissive responses from the city’s fire and police departments.

Uncovering the Truth: The Role of Discovery in Determining Liability for the 10 Freeway


The incident revealed longstanding issues with the storage of combustible materials under freeways. The National Transportation Safety Board highlighted the importance of monitoring and controlling such materials, drawing attention to the risk of catastrophic fires. This incident led to a policy directive by Caltrans, prohibiting the storage of flammable materials under bridges and requiring access for inspections, although enforcement status remains unclear.

Miguel noted that an engineer for Caltrans, who chose not to be named, stated that Caltrans was aware of what was underneath the bridge. Therefore, evidence obtained in discovery through depositions could prove that Caltrans was on notice, opening them up for potential liability.

Miguel predicts a long legal path ahead, adding that it’s “really going to come down to what is found out during the discovery part of litigation.”


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