STUDIO CITY—Officials from the Los Angeles Fire Department battled magnesium mixed with flames on Tuesday, June 14 when a fire engulfed a plastics warehouse in Maywood, threatening neighboring buildings and casting a pungent plume of smoke over the San Fernando Valley.
The LAFD received word of the three-alarm fire early at 2 a.m on the 3500 block of Fruitland Avenue. Firefighters battled the blaze Tuesday and into Wednesday and deputies from several sheriff’s stations across Los Angeles were called to the scene to help battle the blaze.
The flames ripped through a pair of commercial buildings, sparked a series of strong explosions, and left a thick cloud of noxious smoke lingering over the region.
The fire ignited at Gemini Plastic Enterprises, a plastics warehouse located at 3574 Fruitland Ave., and spread to Panda International Trading Co., a metal recycling yard located at 3570 Fruitland Ave., just miles east of the Long Beach (710) Freeway.
A wretched odor spread across the Southland while 300 residents evacuated their homes. Law enforcement officials ordered to cut power for overhead lines at approximately 2:45 a.m., for the safety of firefighters, leaving 3,100 people in the area without power.
Flames were shooting through the roofs of two structures when firefighters arrived. The crews poured water on the flames, but the oxygen from the water generated a chemical reaction with the burning magnesium, causing what fire officials described as “fireballs,” and setting off strong explosions.
Firefighters were ordered to use breathing apparatuses to protect themselves from the fumes, which included magnesium, but also other metals, like copper, zinc, and lead, along with chemicals and propane.
Firefighters fought the fire from the exterior and smothered the flames with a rare, dry-chemical extinguishing agent. They were able to prevent the flames from spreading in the three different directions they were heading towards, in the direct path of homes and businesses near the fire’s origin.
Crews continued to fight the blaze early Wednesday and evacuation orders remained in effect. Many residents sought shelter at the Maywood YMCA; 138 of the 300 evacuees spent the night there.
Firefighters realized that most of the magnesium had burned on Wednesday, which allowed them to pour water on the remaining flames, and complete 12 hours of progress within two, Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesperson Gustavo Medina told Canyon News. After much of the material burned through combustion, the firefighters were able to enter the building and clear spot fires, Medina added.
The magnesium fire that burned for more than 24 hours was extinguished around 4 p.m. on June 15 and authorities immediately took measures to assess air quality.
Traffic was re-routed and a hazardous-material team arrived at the scene to evaluate. Officials from the South Coast Air Quality Management District were notified, and later issued a smoke advisory, stating that the odor from the smoke was prompting complaints across the region.
AQMD officials said that experts were taking measures to assess potential toxic concerns and residents were advised to avoid vigorous exercise outdoors, in areas affected by the smoke; they additionally encouraged people with heart and respiratory disease, young children, and elderly, to remain indoors.
No gases produced by the fire were more dangerous than those from a typical fire. There are no immediate hazardous toxins or smoke outside the area of the fire, but evacuation orders are still in place until further notice, according to Medina.