Sep 24, 2014 2:13 PM

Fire at Los Angeles seaport extinguished

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) A fire at an old wooden wharf at the Port of Los Angeles was extinguished early Wednesday, and normal shipping operations resumed at a key gateway for trade with Asia 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 were again running Wednesday, Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said. Workers were breaking down the damaged wharf, he said.

All eight container terminals at the Port of LA and three of the six at Long Beach were closed most of Tuesday because of worries about unhealthy smoke. Those concerns also prompted officials to advise nearby residents to stay inside with their windows closed.

The economic impact of the fire on commerce was not immediately known, though it was expected to be minimal.

The port's closure affected several oceangoing ships. Three that were headed to the damaged terminal still have not docked, while two other ships that were supposed to dock elsewhere in the sprawling seaport on Tuesday were delayed until Wednesday, Sanfield said. The berth one of the ships was to take was occupied by a ship that could not leave because dockworkers had not finished loading it before they were sent home due to the smoke.

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.

The wharf is part of a terminal that processes cargo typically steel that isn't confined to the large, stackable containers that are standard for seaborne trade.

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, for a while producing a massive plume of dark smoke.


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


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