MAYWOOD — The county Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency June 21 in the wake of last week’s explosive fire at a local warehouse, saying hazardous levels of magnesium were found in the fire ash.
Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended the declaration and also proposed reaching out to Gov. Jerry Brown to ask that he declare a state emergency. Both motions were unanimously approved.
“Over 300 residents were impacted,” Solis said. “Many were not able to go back to their homes because of the high level of magnesium.”
It took nearly three days for the blaze, which broke out June 14, to be fully extinguished.
Families living on the south side of 52nd Street were cleared to go back into their homes June 15, but those closer to the fire were sheltered at the local YMCA.
The Maywood YMCA doesn’t have air conditioning, so when temperatures soared over the weekend, county officials helped residents move into area hotels.
Twelve properties on the north side of Fruitland Avenue remain evacuated a week after the fire began, according to a health department spokesman.
The emergency declarations are intended to free up funding for food, shelter and other assistance for the displaced families. The county’s declaration ratifies a proclamation that Solis signed June 18 during a visit to the American Red Cross disaster shelter in Maywood and makes $125,000 available.
On June 17, the South Coast Air Quality Management District announced that samples from areas around the fire scene had been tested, and a preliminary analysis “showed ambient metal concentrations did not exceed short-term, health-based thresholds.
“The information … only pertains to the results from preliminary metals sampling near the incident,” the AQMD said. “Additional laboratory analysis is still underway for other pollutants and from other sampling locations. Updates will be provided as results become available.”
Later testing by the county’s Department of Public Health in coordination with the federal Environmental Protection Agency found metals on the northern side of East 52nd Street between Maywood and Everett avenues, according to a statement by the Department of Public Health. Authorities said the EPA will clean the affected houses, but did not detail the number of homes involved, the specific metals identified or the levels of contamination.
The three-alarm fire at 3570 Fruitland Avenue — reported at 2:30 a.m. June 14 — ripped through a pair of commercial buildings early the first morning, 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, a warehouse and 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.
In addition to magnesium, other metals such as copper, zinc and lead were present at the site, along with chemicals and propane, according to County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.
County officials identified the location as Panda International Trading and said it housed two businesses, Panda International Trading and Sokor Metals.