Tanker truck fire burning near 2 and 5 freeways; burning fuel spills into L.A. River*

Firefighter on L.A. River Bike path as burning fuel pours into the river/Courtesy Kevin Mulcahy

A fire involving a tanker truck broke out under the interchange of the 2 and 5 freeways this morning,  sending a thick column of smoke into the sky and flaming fuel into nearby storm drains and the L.A. River, according to nearby residents and business owners.

The driver of the tanker truck, which was carrying 7,500 gallons of fuel, was not injured, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The fire, which shut down the 5 Freeway and may have caused some structural damage to the interchange, appeared to have begun at about 10:30 a.m. near Riverside Drive, with thick, black smoke billowing  around the freeway ramps and through vents in the roadway.

Shortly after the fire began at the freeway interchange, a second blaze and column of smoke erupted along the L.A. River after burning fuel flowed into storm drains in Elysian Valley. Architect Tracy Cortez, whose office is on Coolidge Avenue, said trees had caught fire after burning fuel poured into into the river. “There’s fire in the river,” she said.

The Los Angeles Fire Department has warned residents to stay clear of manhole covers and storm drains  “due to explosive runoff.”

Nearby residents reported hearing multiple explosions as the fires burned, with two columns of smoke at one point rising into the sky above the freeway interchange and along the L.A. River.

In its most recent Tweet issued shortly after 12 p.m. the California Highway Patrol said that northbound traffic on the 5 was being diverted to the 2 Freeway. All southbound lanes are open. Meanwhile, traffic on surrounding surface streets in Atwater, Elysian Valley and Silver Lake is heavily congested.

Caltrans officials, meanwhile, are taking a look at the freeway because the “structural integrity may have been compromised,” according to a CHP Tweet. It’s not clear, however,  if officials were referring to the tunnel where the fire broke out or another part of the interchange.

Some initial reports by KPCC and wire services have reported that one person was found dead in a freeway tunnel underneath the interchange but the L.A. Fire Department said there have been no reports of deaths or injuries.

Update @ 12:3o p.m.: LAFD reports that most of the fires are under control but not “fully extinguished,” with aerial video showing firefighters continuing to spray foam into sections on the river. Smoke can also be seen rising out of storm drains.

Related Links:

Fire scene on L.A. River path in Elysian Valley./Anthea Raymond/L.A. River Expeditions

Smoke billows from fire along L.A. River./Tracy Cortez

Smoke viewed from northbound 2 Freeway./Robin Blackman

Column of smoke on left rises from the 2 & 5 freeway where truck caught fire. Smoke rising on right is where apparently burning fuel spilled into L.A. River./ Nicholas Scimeca

Fire viewed from Silver Lake/Martha Flores

Photo by Nicholas Scimeca


  1. now there’s another over by San Fernando and Division.

  2. Yeah I’m watching from outside my window. How did a second one break out?

  3. Lots of helicopter, but it looks like it’s getting worse. The wind is blowing toward Elysian Heights, so I’m really concerned that they haven’t gotten it under control.

  4. the first one is blowing white smoke, which means it’s pretty much out.

  5. I guess I’m not going to Home Depot.

    • If you value your sanity man, don’t. I went innocently out to get groceries and traffic got me for 3 hours. It’s worse than you think, and everybody is thinking, “No problem: I’ll take San Fernando then.” San Fernando is now as bad off as the 5.

      If you got em, light em. STAY HOME

  6. Did any one else hear an explosion as the tanker truck was burning?

  7. Anyone else just feel & hear those explosions? At 11:32am- I don’t think this is a tanker truck. What’s going on? Now even more sirens.

  8. I just heard the explosions as well – holy cow

  9. so the second flare up seems to be a little further away than I though over near Fletcher and the 2.

  10. There are now explosions and apparently gasoline flowing down the river

  11. when vehicles burn the tires explode. the sound is dramatic, but just a tire popping.

  12. KNX says the truck overturned in the tunnel connecting the 2 to the 5

  13. I should clearly see smoke from my apartment and i see nothing. I’m going to home depot.

  14. the truck probably got cut off by a bicycle traveling at 18 miles per hour. or a pedestrian in an unmarked crosswalk.

  15. This is scary. But not as scary as a sharknado.

  16. We live on Rosebud and were eating outside when we heard a loud BOOM. Three more followed, and cars started backing up on the freeway. We turned around to see huge clouds of black smoke. All the neighbors gathered up on the hill to watch and take pictures. The second fire apparently started because of hazardous material going down into the LA river. Pretty crazy morning.

  17. Photo of smoke coming out of the sewers in Frogtown (Ripple Street):


  18. A good time to avoid Glendale Blvd.

    • Yes, at around 1:30 pm this afternoon, Glendale Blvd going north from the 2 freeway was completely jammed.

  19. Looks like a good day to hunker down at home.

  20. I live less than a mile from there and was wondering WTF was up with all the gnarly traffic.

    I saw all the fluid in the reservoir and thought to myself, “Awesome, this must be water from the rain we got the other day, must have come down from the mountains or something. Cool, we need more water.”

    So it’s GASOLINE

    Greaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat 🙁

  21. @Heather – there’s no gasoline in the reservoir… it’s in the RIVER. and the reservoir isn’t nestled at the base of the mountains… it’s safe.

  22. My point being, of course, the whining about traffic while people die…

  23. BTW I am not connected with freewaves, I just support them cuz they rock and deserve support by everyone in LA

  24. Larayne Brannon-Ingle

    Glad everyone is ok!! My husband & our darling dog were 3 cars from the tunnel when it was closed, soooo dangerous!!! Smoke everywhere, sirens from a distance, chaos abounding, & our poor sweet dog even knows there is danger~~ she is shaking & freaking out!!! Sad for the river, but, happy for no human lives lost, at this point, whew!!!

  25. Hope that driver never gets behind the wheel again !
    Dummy mcdonalds is needs dry cooks !

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