Fire at Los Angeles seaport extinguished

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A fire at an old wooden wharf at the Port of Los Angeles was extinguished early Wednesday and normal operations resumed after an idle day brought on by smoke from the blaze.

The fire sparked Monday evening by a welding accident was declared out shortly after 3 a.m., Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said.

It burned through the day Tuesday, disrupting business at the Port of Los Angeles and the adjacent Port of Long Beach, which together handle 40 percent of America's import trade. No injuries were reported.

With the exception of the terminal damaged by flames, all terminals will be up and running Wednesday, Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.

All eight container terminals at the Port of LA and three of the six at Long Beach were closed most of the previous day because of worries about unhealthy smoke.

Fireboats spraying water and foam worked with scuba divers and firefighters ashore to contain the bulk of the flames after about 2 1/2 hours. But the blaze at the 800-foot-long, pre-World War II wharf with creosote-preserved timber continued to smolder after more than 24 hours, and for a while produced a massive plume of dark smoke.

The wharf is part of a terminal that processes cargo that isn't confined to large, stackable containers.

The economic impact of the fire was not immediately known and will depend on what kind of cargo was held on the docks. Sanfield said he expected the dollar loss would be minimal because dockworkers have been able to catch up following similar-length disruptions due to weather or labor unrest.

He estimated a few thousand employees, mostly longshore workers, were sent home Tuesday.

The Port of Los Angeles handles an average of about $780 million of cargo each day, and the consequences of delays in moving that much product will reverberate down the supply chain — from truckers who wouldn't get paid for the day, to exporters and retailers whose products won't show up right on time.

Outside the port, the fire's main effect came in the form of precautions for potential health effects from smoke.

Fire and police officials advised residents in the Wilmington and San Pedro neighborhoods and the city of Long Beach to remain indoors and keep windows closed.

One parochial school was closed Tuesday, and students at a public elementary school were bused to another site, said Monica Carazo of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Other schools remained open with outdoor activities suspended.

Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said, however, that hazardous air quality levels were reported only in the immediate proximity of the fire.


Associated Press writers Justin Pritchard and Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.