Police have released a picture of a “subject of interest” thought to be connected to a massive fire that caused traffic chaos in Los Angeles, after a large section of the Interstate 10 highway was closed.
The picture of the unidentified man was released on Saturday, and showed him in the immediate area of where the fire began. The suspect appeared to have “visible burn injuries on his left leg”.
Last week, California governor Gavin Newsom said that investigators believed the fire had been “set intentionally” and that a preliminary investigation into the incident had found “malice and intent”.
“The fire marshall made the determination that there was malice intent... This fire occurred within the fenceline of the facility you see behind me, that it was arson, and that it was done and set intentionally,” he told reporters.
In the police release, the individual was described as a man 30 to 35 years old, about 6 feet (1.83 metres) tall and weighing between 170 pounds (77 kilograms) and 190 pounds (86 kilograms). Details about how he was identified were not immediately released.
Please read the attached crime alert. If you have any information, please contact the Office of the State Fire Marshal Arson and Bomb Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the CAL FIRE Arson Hotline at 1-800-468-4408. pic.twitter.com/bSB8POYLk9
— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) November 18, 2023
The photographs show him wearing blue shorts, a black hooded sweatshirt, a green scarf and a brace on the right knee.
Despite fears that the mile-long section of freeway near downtown LA, which sees 300,000 vehicles use it every day, would remain closed until Tuesday, the city’s mayor Karen Bass announced on Sunday that the stretch would be open again on Monday morning.
“Eastbound and westbound traffic lanes are now open on the 10 and we will continue to work to open on and off ramps through the evening. Welcome back, Los Angeles!” she posted on X.
A post from the Governor of California’s Office also posted, thanking Ms Bass and vice president Kamala Harris – who also visited the site of the fire ahead of its reopening.
“Today, we announced with @VP and @MayorOfLA the I-10 will open ahead of the Monday morning commute!” the post read.
Today, we announced with @VP and @MayorOfLA the I-10 will open ahead of the Monday morning commute!
Thanks to the heroic work of @CaltransDist7 & union construction crews, the 10's expedited repair is proof and a point of pride that here in California, we deliver. #Fixthe10 pic.twitter.com/bDUpeLSsvU
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) November 19, 2023
“Thanks to the heroic work of @CaltransDist7 & union construction crews, the 10’s expedited repair is proof and a point of pride that here in California, we deliver.”
At a press conference, Mr Newsom told reporters: “It wasn’t just speed that we were after. We wanted to make sure this thing was safe.”
The extent of the damage to the I-10 seemed extensive, with surveyors determining that nearly 100 columns of the freeway were damaged in the fire, at least nine of which were severely impacted.
Photos of the aftermath showed blackened pillars and concrete patches missing from columns as a result of the blaze. Large pieces of metal and the inner portions of the support columns were left exposed.
Officials had initially said it could take about 250 workers between three and five weeks to shore up the span. Though both lanes have now been reopened, there will be periodic closures in the coming weeks or months as repairs continue.
Eastbound and westbound traffic lanes are now open on the 10 and we will continue to work to open on and off ramps through the evening.
Welcome back, Los Angeles!
— Mayor Karen Bass (@MayorOfLA) November 20, 2023
It is estimated the initial repairs, which are expected to be covered by federal funds, would cost $3m.
State investigators repeatedly identified fire and safety hazards at a leased storage space under an elevated Los Angeles freeway before it burned in the fire, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.
Authorities say that the fire was reported at 12.20am on Saturday November 11, with flames burning through cars and wooden pallets in an eight-acre area under the elevated freeway.
At least 16 homeless people living underneath the highway were taken to shelters, Ms Bass said previously.