COMPTON, Calif. (AP) — A huge fire visible across Los Angeles burned stacks of pallets in a commercial yard and buses parked in a neighboring lot Friday.
The inferno erupted in Compton before dawn and created a massive column of smoke that rose high into the sky and spread widely across the metropolitan area.
There was no immediate assessment of the total loss, but at least a dozen buses could be seen ablaze during the height of the fire.
One firefighter had a minor ankle injury, but there were no other injuries, said Compton Fire Department Battalion Chief Jim McCombs.
Jimmy Valadez, whose family owns the Matrix Mattress, said the fire destroyed the business.
“There were two warehouses full of stock. All of my parents’ inventory is gone. … Half the property’s gone,” he told KNBC-TV.
McCombs said the fire may have started in an alley. The cause was under investigation but it did not appear to be suspicious, he said.
Nearby residents blamed a homeless encampment in the alley.
“They’re barbecuing, making fires to stay warm,” Christian Hernandez told KNBC-TV.
Elias Hernandez said the fire burned a homeless man’s belongings before spreading to a utility pole, and “from there, it just started spreading everywhere.””
He said he tried to douse the blaze with a hose.
The fire was reported around 4:45 a.m., and more than 100 firefighters and 26 fire engines from multiple departments responded to the industrial district surrounded by neighborhoods about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of downtown Los Angeles.
Some nearby residents left their homes, but firefighters pouring streams of water prevented the flames from spreading to residences. It took several hours to control the flames.
Fortunately, the fire erupted in a calm period between bouts of Santa Ana winds that have been sweeping through Southern California. One round of winds hit Thursday and another was predicted to develop by the weekend.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a special advisory for the immediate area, urging people who smelled smoke or could see ash to limit exposure by remaining indoors with windows and doors closed.
While winds were calm in the morning, they were expected to increase through the day and neighborhoods downwind could experience very unhealthy air quality.
Associated Press reporter John Antczak contributed from Los Angeles.