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A major Los Angeles freeway has been closed indefinitely

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

One of the Los Angeles area's busiest freeways, Interstate 10, remains completely shut down after a fire this weekend. According to state officials, about 300,000 drivers on average use the freeway every day, and the shutdown is expected to create massive congestion all around downtown LA. LAist reporter Makenna Sievertson has the latest.

MAKENNA SIEVERTSON: At a press conference Monday afternoon, California's governor, Gavin Newsom, said that the state's fire marshal and Cal Fire had a preliminary answer about the fire's cause.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

GAVIN NEWSOM: They finished that investigation up about 12 hours early, and they made a determination - a preliminary determination there was malice intent, that it was arson and that it was done and set intentionally. That determination of who is responsible is an investigation that is ongoing.

SIEVERTSON: Officials are still trying to figure out how long the 10 freeway near downtown LA will be closed. A hazmat assessment has been completed, and engineers are now trying to see if the damage can be repaired or if that stretch of freeway needs to be demolished. Getting the popular roadway up and running again is a priority for the city, says LA Mayor Karen Bass.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAREN BASS: This was a huge fire, and the damage will not be fixed in an instant.

SIEVERTSON: The city is encouraging downtown businesses to let their employees work from home. And drivers who need to get around the downtown area are being told to check for alternate routes and prepare for significant delays. Rafael Molina works on traffic operations with Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation. He says congestion was actually lighter than normal Monday morning, but it could be because residents are listening to the warnings.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RAFAEL MOLINA: If you don't need to be in downtown LA - I can't stress this enough - please avoid so. And if you do, please use transit.

SIEVERTSON: LA Metro officials say they're increasing the number of trains and buses to help get people to businesses, schools and work. Stephanie Wiggins is the CEO of LA Metro. She says residents seem to be making use of public transit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEPHANIE WIGGINS: If last night is any indication, people are listening. Our parking structure at Union Station was full, Mayor, as people were parking at Union Station.

SIEVERTSON: Officials encouraged anyone with information about who started the fire to report it to a confidential line.

For NPR News, I'm Makenna Sievertson in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Makenna Sievertson