This past Saturday, a massive fire closed the I-10 Freeway in Downtown Los Angeles and while there has been much talk surrounding the survival of the freeway, and whether or not it would have to be completely repaired, others who were directly impacted by the fire are trying to figure out what to do next.
Governor Gavin Newsom said, in a press conference on Monday, that authorities have determined the fire to have been intentionally set in an act of arson . Although they do not have leads on who could have started the fire, they know it was set within the fence line of the storage business located underneath the freeway.
The business located under the freeway was a place where many L.A. residents stored their vehicles and work equipment. Many of the items that burned during the fire were entire vehicles, and among them were street vendor carts from six vendors.
A video circulating online showed what remained of the once vibrant fruit carts, now sitting burned down next to one another, with a small fire in the back still visible. One of the vendor's family members posted the video on TikTok.
Since then, the vendors have created a GoFundMe in hopes of raising enough money to be able to buy new carts. For many of them, the fire destroyed their means of working, seeing as they are full-time street vendors who rely on their carts to make a living.
Rocio Sanchez, 36, is a full-time fruit vendor who lost two fruit carts and was left with the third one in need of repairs. The single mother, who would vend throughout L.A. and near Pasadena, is still in shock after witnessing her carts burn.
“It was six in the morning and I was actually on my way there when I got a call from someone else who works there, and they told me the carts burned,” she tells L.A. TACO in Spanish. “I thought it was a bad joke because I couldn’t believe it.”
But once she arrived at the location, she realized it was not a joke. Before her eyes stood the remains of two of her fruit carts. She was able to save one from the flames, she said, with the cart partially burned on its side. Sanchez has been street vending in Los Angeles for the past 11 years and in those years, she had never imagined something like this would happen.
Vendor advocates, like Edin Alex Enamorado , are now asking officials like Governor Newsom, L.A. Mayor Karen Bass, and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors' Hilda Solis to help these vendors and other residents who lost their work equipment in the fire.
According to Sanchez, besides vendors, there was a mechanic, a food truck that sold produce, and others.
“Honestly no," Sanchez said, when asked if any officials have reached out to offer possible help. "No one has talked to us but I hope they do, because it was horrible, we got there and we were frozen in shock. My kids always come to work with me and they saw everything burning and the first thing my son said was 'Mom, how are we going to work?'"
“I didn't even know what to tell him, but even he was worried,” she added. “And he’s right. I keep thinking, 'how am I going to do it, there’s rain coming, the cold is coming.'”
Sanchez is like many of the fruit vendors who lost their carts to the fire. She works six days a week and this loss has halted all of her operations. She has lost a little over $3,200, she says, not including any repairs she'll need on her third cart.
Although she is heartbroken by her loss, Sanchez knows other vendors who lost even more than she did.
“I thank God, because yes, I lost a lot and it hurts, but I at least have one cart that isn't fully burned,” she said. “But there is this one vendor who lost 7 carts that completely disintegrated.”
L.A. TACO reached out to the other vendors impacted by the fire and is waiting to hear back from them. In total, there are six including Sanchez. Their names are Cesar Gonzalez, Oscar Herrera, Jose Gonzalez, Guiyel Pineda, and Manuel Guachac. As of right now, Sanchez said all the vendors are in communication with each other and their employees.
“It has affected us a lot," she said. "I have two other people who helped me sell and worked for me and now they are impacted by this too. We all don’t have a job right now. It’s not just about one of us, those carts were our job, our lives.”
One of Sanchez's other concerns, besides the financial hardship is, the need to search for a new place to store the carts once they are restored. She says the vendors are taking it all one step at a time, hoping to raise enough funds for all six to be able to recover a portion of their carts. L.A. TACO also reached out to city officials regarding any potential help to those impacted by the fire but neither of them has responded.
“I’m a single mom," she said. "I can’t stay without working, so I’ve been feeling stressed. Because since then, we’re just trying to figure out how we’re going to get back out to work."
“It’s hard. We always wake up happy to go to work and for this to happen, it just really hurts.”
Donations for the vendors are being accepted here.