Tanker fire and fuel spill shuts down L.A. River recreation area

Video above shot by L.A. River Kayak Safari

Burning fuel pours into L.A. River bed./Anthea Raymond/L.A. River Expeditions

Only a few weeks after a 2-1/2 mile section of the L.A. River opened for boating and recreational uses  for the first time in decades, the recreation zone through Elysian Valley remained  closed today after Saturday’s tanker truck fire sent flames and burning fuel shooting into the riverbed only a few minutes after kayakers floated past.

Tests conducted in the river from Elysian Valley to Long Beach have not detected any contamination from the fuel spill that was triggered by a Saturday morning tanker truck crash at the 2 and 5 freeway interchange, said Elysian Valley Riverside Neighborhood Council President Steve Appleton. In addition, it appears that much if not all of the burning fuel that traveled through storm drains underneath the neighborhood and flowed into the river bed at Allesandro Street was captured in a sandbar and did not make it into the water, he said.

However, a strong chemical odor still hung over the riverbed today. The  L.A. River Recreation Pilot Zone, where people can kayak, hike and bird watch in the riverbed, will be closed as officials prepare to clean up the storm drains and capture any residue before it enters the water, he said. In addition, sections of the popular L.A. River Path on the east bank of the river remain closed in Elysian Valley.

“We saw smoke coming out of street grates,” said Appleton. “It was epic. It was an amazing. We are still in shock.”

Appleton, who operates a company that provides kayaking tours of the river, said one of his groups, which included 14 kayakers and guides, had floated past Allesandro Street about 15 minutes before the tanker truck explosion and fuel spill took place.

But the group was never at risk and was well down river when the fire and fuel spill took place, he said. The tour was cut short and the group got out of the river.


  1. I’m hoping this spill doesn’t harm our long neck cranes

    • Because the toxins were caught in the sandbar at the edge of the river, it seems that water and wildlife will be saved from extensive damage.

  2. …and who removes the toxin-capturing sandbar?

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