The Port of Los Angeles and part of the Port of Long Beach were forced to shut down for a time this week because of a fire on the underside of an 800-foot-long wooden wharf. Unhealthy smoke triggered the temporary closings Monday evening through Wednesday morning, sending a few thousand longshore workers home. Eight Los Angeles and three Long Beach container terminals were affected by the blaze, which was contained in about three hours by firefighters.
Officials said the fire was ignited by a welding accident on Monday night, immediately impacting a warehouse that runs the length of the wharf. Firefighters used boats with water sprayers and foam to help put out the blaze which smoldered well into Tuesday night. The warehouse itself did not catch fire and no injuries were reported.
The economic cost of the four-alarm fire is still not fully known, but will be closely watched. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle 40% of America’s import trade. Los Angeles alone deals with $780 million of cargo each day. In the past, temporary shutdowns have caused only minor issues within the supply chain, however, affecting mostly truckers and exporters.
Following the fire, police advised nearby residents to remain indoors and keep their windows closed because of concerns over air quality. A local private school closed and students at a close-by public elementary school were bused to another location.