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Port of Los Angeles fire: Terminals resume full operations (updated)

A fire at the Port of Los Angeles has been almost contained, according to city officials. Firefighters were able to get the fire under control after changing tactics Tuesday morning, but hot spots and air quality problems remain.

The fire erupted Monday night shortly around 6:30 p.m. from a torch welding operation, LAFD officials said.

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Update 5:20 p.m. Terminals to resume full operations

The Port of Los Angeles announced late Tuesday afternoon that terminals at the port were set to resume full operations at 6 p.m., though the wharf where the fire took place will remain closed.

Air quality conditions were safe for local residents and to return to work in the area as of late Tuesday afternoon, according to the Port of L.A. and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Air quality will continue to be monitored in the area.

"We’re particularly grateful to our neighbors in Long Beach for their cooperation and assistance," Port of L.A. Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a press release.

The fire is now more than 90 percent contained, according to the release. The nearby Yusen Terminals International is scheduled to reopen at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

KPCC staff

Update 1:10 p.m. Air quality remains 'moderate' following fire

The air quality in the area following the Port of L.A. fire is officially listed as moderate by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and levels are being monitored on an hourly basis, L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino tells KPCC. Buscaino sits on a board that oversees South Coast AQMD.

"AQMD wheeled out four stationary monitors throughout the area in Wilmington, San Pedro, even the west part of Long Beach, and on Terminal Island," Buscaino said. "The air quality in this region is of utmost importance. We have America's largest port. We've seen reductions in emissions ... [but] we need to ensure that we protect the most vulnerable — our seniors, and also our children."

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

12:35 p.m. Port of Los Angeles fire largely under control

Caption: A panoramic view of the smoldering fire (and the foam used to fight it) at the Port of Los Angeles on Tuesday, September 23. 2014. Credit: Maya Sugarman/ KPCC

The fire at the Port of Los Angeles has been largely contained, according to officials, though hot spots remain and air quality remains a concern. The fire also resulted in pollution going into the surrounding waterway.

Fire tweet

The fire was reported around 7 p.m. Monday evening, according to Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas, when it was reported that a boat was on fire at a Port of Los Angeles wharf. After fighting the fire all night, the conditions of the fire remained largely unchanged, Terrazas said.

Tuesday morning, fire officials discussed what to do and changed tactics, Terrazas said, moving their most powerful fire boat from protecting the north side to sweeping the entire length of the wharf with water.

"The fire went out rapidly," Terrazas said.

The air quality in the area around the port is showing short-term spikes similar to air quality during a wildfire, according to officials. The Air Quality Management District's Philip Fine advised to use common sense and avoid vigorous physical activity outdoors, but that air quality was within federal and state standards.

"Our message remains that if you see smoke, if you smell smoke, remain indoors," Councilman Joe Buscaino said.

Buscaino said that it's important to make sure you have working air filters if you're using air conditioning. He also said that schools in the area had filters that kept them safe.

"Schools today, I would say, are safer than some homes," Buscaino said.

Precautionary measures won't be needed for more than the next 24 hours, Buscaino said.

The fire had sent some pollution into the water, from both foam used in firefighting and creosote residue, according to the Coast Guard's Jennifer Williams. She said that a contractor had been hired to clean up the pollution and that the goal was to keep the port open during the cleanup.

While foam was used, water proved more effective, Terrazas said, crediting the larger firefighting boat's ability to fire 40,000 gallons per minute and using that boat to sweep the entire length of the wharf with putting the bulk of the fire out. The foam used was Class A foam, which is used for materials like wood. It helps the water penetrate the fire more efficiently.

Buscaino praised the firefighters who fought the port fire, saying that in the early 1980s, a fire of this magnitude would have taken a week to knock down.

Mike Roe/KPCC

Update 11:21 a.m. Students being evacuated

Students at George De La Torre Junior Elementary School were wearing surgical masks as they filed outside and into school buses Tuesday morning. Monica Carazo of the L.A. Unified School District says about 700 students and 30 faculty members at Wilmington's De La Torre Elementary School are being taken by bus to Olguin High School, according to the Associated Press, on the campus of San Pedro High School.

Tweet: Students relocating

Tweet: Students being relocated

Meanwhile, frustrated parents say they have been waiting outside for some time to hear where students are headed. 

Tweet: Students in masks heading towards school buses

Update 10:35 a.m. Dock workers told to stay home 

All nine container terminals at the Port of Los Angeles have told their dock workers to stay home today as a precaution. Poor air quality has raised concerns for workers, port spokesman Phillip Sanfield told KPCC.

This applies to workers on the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift.  

Sanfield estimates the closure will affect at least a couple thousand workers. The terminals will reassess later Tuesday afternoon if night workers will work their shifts, which usually start at 5 p.m. 

7:18 a.m.: School closed, air quality alert issued 

L.A. Port Police Chief Mike Hillman says Saints Peter and Paul School in Wilmington is closed Tuesday.

Los Angeles Fire Department says the fire’s fumes are not detected to be hazardous, but they are monitoring air quality as a precaution.

The department is asking residents in Wilmington and San Pedro to keep windows and doors shut until further notice.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued the following smoke advisory Tuesday:

In any area impacted by smoke, SCAQMD advises:

Firefighters estimate they will be on scene for the next eight to 12 hours and are concerned about windshift and fumes.

The fire broke out around 6:30 p..m. Monday night near the the 800 block of South Fries Avenue. 

This post has been updated.

Updates on social media: 

Photos: Port Fire