The fire was reported just before 7 p.m. first at a pallet yard on South Ceres Avenue and it quickly spread to six commercial buildings, including one that was fully involved in flames and considered a total loss. The buildings are for a textile business.
The owner of the textile business said he had about $5 million in merchandise and material in his warehouse when it went up in flames.
Firefighters were on the rooftops fighting the flames. More than 180 firefighters were involved at the peak, but the department was starting to release some personnel by 9 p.m. No injuries were reported.
"This was like a war scene, because there was fire all around us," said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman David Ortiz.
The skies of Los Angeles were already thick with smoke from the Sand Fire in the Santa Clarita area, which burned more than 20,000 acres.
Smoke from the downtown fire could also be seen from miles away. People were seen on the Hollywood Hills taking photos of the smoke plumes over downtown.
Firefighters had gotten a good handle on the fire by late Saturday evening, but were expected to remain on scene through the night. They were continuing to investigate the cause of the fire.