September 16, 2019 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Venice Pier Back Open After Fire

Electrical fire closes Pier, City approves $5 million for repairs.

By Sam Catanzaro

The Venice Pier has been reopened after an electrical malfunction caused a section of the Pier to catch fire early in the morning June 26, closing the Pier for four days, causing some concern that the Pier would not be open for the Fourth of July.

“Just after 4:30 a.m. the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) firefighters arrived to find heavy fire across a 15-foot section of the land-based portion of the Venice Beach Pier,” said an LAFD spokesperson. “The preliminary cause has been deemed electrical.”

Damage was limited to the land-based portion of the Pier, as firefighters were able to respond in a timely fashion and were able to quickly extinguish the fire in time to protect the lifeguard tower from becoming involved. Despite the swift response, the fire did cause substantial damage to the pier.

“The 15-foot section of the pier that had heavy fire ended up causing approximately 40 feet of damage including some of the side reinforcement structural timbers,” the LAFD said.

The 15-foot section of the Pier damaged in the June 26, electrical fire. Photo: Sam Catanzaro.

After the fire was extinguished and the scene was secured, the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering performed a physical condition assessment of the pier and identified defects requiring immediate corrective actions. The areas identified are the degraded pile caps — which prevent internal rot on pilings — and the degraded under-deck soffit in the pier’s middle segments.

“The concrete in these areas has cracks and spalls, recently exacerbated by a structural and electrical fire, exposing the reinforcing steel to corrosion, and requires urgent abatement,” wrote Councilmember Mike Bonin in an emergency motion rushed and passed through City Council on June, 28. ” To avoid further damage to the pier, RAP (Recreation and Parks) and BOE (Bureau of Engineering) recommend initiating the repair work as quickly as possible.”

The emergency motion approved by City Council allocates $5 million to fund the repairs needed to the Venice Pier.

LAFD firefighters responded to the fire swiftly, preventing damage from the lifeguard tower, which sits in close proximity to where the fire occurred. Photo: Sam Catanzaro.

The source of the electrical fire is still unclear. CBS Los Angeles reported that the fire was started by a homeless camp under the pier.

Yo! Venice was told by an eyewitness that the fire was started by an individual attempting to charge an electrical device.

“The guy I saw…had tampered with wires to power some device and the voltage sparked (exploded), injuring him and started the fire. It was not deliberately set,” wrote Peter John Ruiz in an email to Yo! Venice.

Yo! Venice reached out to both the LAFD and the Department of Recreation and Parks to verify these claims and neither agency has responded.

Ruiz, who is disabled and formally homeless, volunteers to help maintain the Pier.

“I was deemed disabled, and I collect disability and it was my way of keeping busy, doing work. I’m not one to just sit around and collect a check. If I have the free time, I want to do something with it, being it clean the Pier or I volunteer with some other stuff along Ocean Front Walk. Graffiti cleaning and stuff,” Ruiz said to Yo! Venice in an article published about him last year. 

He was concerned that the fire would keep the Pier closed for the Fourth of July.

“Visions of a prolonged repair haunted me last night being that I’ve already purchased flags to decorate our beloved Venice Pier,” Ruiz said.

With the Venice Beach pier back open before the Fourth, not only is it getting $5 million worth of repairs, but it will also get the red, white and blue decorations Ruiz has planned.

Peter John Ruiz is a local who volunteers to help maintain the Pier. He was an eyewitness to the fire and was concerned that the damage would close the Pier for the Fourth of July. Photo: Melanie Camp.
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