COMPTON (CBSLA) — The cleanup continued Thursday for a massive pallet yard fire that sent flames and plumes of thick black smoke into the Compton sky on Wednesday.
The fire broke out at a pallet yard near Rosecrans Avenue and Alameda Street. By 5:45 p.m., the blaze was upgraded to a four-alarm fire as a blanket of smoke covered the neighborhood surrounding the industrial business.READ MORE: LA District Attorney, George Gascon, Forms Independent Team To Reexamine Fatal Use-of-Force Incidents
According to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, which was assisting the Compton Fire Department, there was still concern about sporadic explosions and the possibility of dangerous materials burning at the site as gusty winds carried embers to nearby structures.
Firefighters said they had a hard time getting the flames under control due to what they called significant water pressure issues that are sometimes caused by aging pipes.
But Compton fire Chief Ronerick Simpson said the water pressure issues come with the territory of fighting large industrial fires which force crews to tap into seven or eight fire hydrants from the same water main.
“Trying to get a massive amount of water at one location, so any water system would struggle in the beginning,” he said.
Simpson said the water department eventually increased the water pressure, allowing better water flow to the hoses as fire crews worked to protect the neighborhood.
And thought L.A. County fire said three homes were lost, Simpson said the damaged structures were just sheds.
“We were able to extinguish it without losing any homes,” he said.
But a number of residents, including Victor Sera Marrufo, disagree with that assessment.
“It was only two rooms,” he said of the small back house he has lived in for four years. “And I fix it for I can live over here.”
The structure was burned beyond repair, leaving the senior with kidney disease to sleep in his car. He said nobody came by to see if he was OK or if he needed help, leaving neighbors like Jackie Venters very upset.
“I just told him, if we you don’t find you nowhere, you gonna come stay at my house,” she said. “And I meant that.”
Neighbors eventually found a place for Marrufo to stay for the night with the assistance of the Red Cross.READ MORE: DMV Investigating Luxury Car Dealership In Upland
“I’m speechless,” Janice Irving, an 82-year-old resident who also lost her home to the fire, said. “I don’t want to lose my composure, but it’s hard to contain.”
Irving, who is legally blind, cannot see much of what happened to her home of 52 years, but her sister said there was a lot of smoke and water damage on the inside and some fire damage on the outside.
“A lot of wires down in the back, burning on the exterior, a hole in the roof, it was still burning today,” Nila Hagan said. “We called them back out, we noticed it and called them back out on the back corner of the house.”
But it was not just the fire that damaged Irving’s home. Her neighbors thought she was still in her bedroom when the blaze was raging behind her home, prompting firefighters to take down a metal fence and remove the metal bars from the windows to make sure she was not trapped.
“I was happy that she wasn’t in there,” Hagan said.
Irving, an Air Force veteran, was luckily out of town when the fire broke out and that she was extremely thankful.
“There are moments that I’m here totally alone because I can’t afford a caretaker as much as I need one,” she said.
For at least the next couple of weeks, Irving will be staying with family members as they figure out what comes next.
“She wants to sit in the sun and the yard and be close to her house that she’s been in for 50 years,” Hagan said.
According to Jonathan Matheny, a public information officer for L.A. County Fire, more than 150 firefighters were assigned to the blaze Wednesday night.
“What we have in there is just a mess,” he said.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation. There were no immediate reports of injuries.MORE NEWS: Latinas More Likely To Leave Workforce During Pandemic, UCLA Report Shows
“They’ll be investigating quickly and effectively to try to find out what caused this blaze,” Matheny said. “Right now, it’s impossible to know.”