State audit: Caltrans failed to conduct inspections, leading to Interstate 10 fire

Caltrans could have done more to prevent the fire, according to the California State Auditor.

A state audit found that Caltrans failed to conduct proper oversight on Interstate 10 in Los Angeles, which contributed to a destructive fire last year. 

Caltrans only conducted its required annual inspections of the lots under I-10 five times over a 15-year period and did not adequately document them. 


Driving the news: Flammable materials were illegally stored on land leased by Caltrans to a private company, Apex Development Inc., which ultimately led to the destructive fire.

  • The fire burned through about 100 columns, forced the closure of a mile-long stretch of the freeway, and initial repairs were estimated to cost $3 million.

The big picture: Caltrans failed to act upon discovering hazards during their inspections, and there were previous warning signs that were not reacted to. 

  • It took Caltrans four months to complete an inspection after another fire broke out in a space under the Los Angeles freeway in 2022, and the agency cited limitations on its ability to act independently due to landlord-tenant laws and limited expertise.
  • The audit recommended that Caltrans ensure regular inspections, train staff on identifying lease violations, and streamline the approval process for legal action.
  • Caltrans has been asked to create a corrective action plan within 60 days and provide updates every six months until all issues have been addressed.
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