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Caltrans inspecting storage sites statewide after massive LA fire

Caltrans to inspect underpass storage sites after LA fire
Caltrans to inspect underpass storage sites after LA fire 02:57

CalTrans is paying closer attention to what's under some Bay Area freeways, after last month's huge fire in Southern California. 

A crammed storage area under Interstate 10 in Los Angeles erupted in flames, shutting down the freeway for almost 2 weeks.

Now CalTrans wants to make sure it doesn't happen anywhere else. They've inspected 13 sites in the Bay Area considered high-risk in Oakland, San Francisco and Richmond.

"It is impossible that we would be safe if something were to happen," says Jessica Dizio. She lives in Emeryville just one property away from one of the CalTrans storage lots that was recently re-inspected.

"I wasn't worried before everything that just happened because I was like, alright. It's just storage, what can be wrong? But now I just don't know what is in there," says Dizio.

She's talking about the massive fire in the early morning hours of November 11th at a different CalTrans storage lot underneath Interstate 10 in Los Angeles. The damage was so severe crews had to close the freeway for almost two weeks to make emergency repairs.

In the wake of that fire, CalTrans is stepping up inspections of other sites across the state, including a handful here in the Bay Area.

"Out of an abundance of caution, considering what happened in Los Angeles, we decided to take an extra look at these sites," says Matt Rocco, a spokesperson for CalTrans.

CalTrans has more than 600 sites across the state where they lease storage space under the freeways for things like parking lots, cell phone towers, and storage.

It makes the state almost $35 million a year in lease fees, and according to the rules tenants aren't allowed to store hazardous or flammable materials there.

In the days since the LA fire, CalTrans has already re-inspected the Bay Area sites.

"There was nothing that looked like what the site in LA looked like," says Rocco.

But for Dizio, she worries about whether there is enough ongoing oversight - not just of the sanctioned storage spaces but also the unsanctioned encampments that often are right next to each other.

"Are they going to wait until something horrible happens to make a change, to make a decision to make regulations? I don't think that's fair," says Dizio.

According to CalTrans, the state fire marshal also inspected the 13 high priority storage sites in the Bay Area, but they haven't yet gotten those reports.

CalTrans does annual inspections on the more than 600 sites that are currently leased. 

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