Driver who escaped 10 Freeway fire chaos recalls terrifying scene: 'I'm still kind of traumatized'

"I saw people running, getting out of their cars, leaving their cars and start to run ... I panicked," said Kimberly Lancaster.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2023
Driver who escaped 10 Freeway fire chaos recalls terrifying scene
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"I saw people running, getting out of their cars, leaving their cars and start to run ... I panicked," said Kimberly Lancaster.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As crews continue repair work on the fire-damaged portion of the 10 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles, one driver who was there when the massive blaze broke out is recalling the chaos she witnessed.

Kimberly Lancaster said she had just left a photoshoot and was heading toward the 10 when she came across a strange sight.

"I just remember the big black cloud and I was like, 'This is so weird and ominous.'"

She continued driving onto the 10 but was stopped by a wave of vehicles, all at a standstill.

"At that point, I thought, 'Ok, no big deal,' but then there was like explosions of fire happening, and I kind of looked at my neighbor, and one guy to the right was like, 'Dude, this is kind of scary' ... this is like my worst nightmare to be on a freeway and you can't move anywhere."

She said at that point, she began seeing people getting out of their vehicles and running away, leaving the cars on the freeway.

"I saw people running, getting out of their cars, leaving their cars and start to run ... I panicked," said Kimberly Lancaster. "I do the same thing. I grabbed my wallet and my phone and I just take off."

However, she started noticing people turning their cars around and leaving. That's when Lancaster did the same - she went back to her car, turned around and used a closed on-ramp to exit the freeway.

"This was all in the nick of time, in like 45 minutes, and it was really intense and scary, and I feel like I'm still kind of traumatized by that because, what was I going to do? Jump the bridge? Jump the freeway? Lose my life or lose my car? At that point, I didn't care. It was really hard because everyone was getting out of their cars, turning their cars ... we were trapped."

Lancaster said her quick decision to hop back in her car exit through an on-ramp saved her life.

"It was super, super, hot but you're not evening thinking straight," she said. "I don't have time. I grabbed my wallet, I grabbed everything, and I'm like, right in the midst of the cloud and the fire. It's hot, you're running, your adrenaline is going, you turn your car around or you get out of your car, you lock it and you go. That's where my mind was."

The fire that broke out over the weekend was set intentionally and likely arson, said Gov. Gavin Newsom when speaking about the investigation into the cause at a Monday afternoon press conference.

There was no immediate information on a possible arson suspect or suspects, but Newsom said the fire was set within the fenceline of the storage business operating below the freeway, which was littered with vehicles, pallets and other materials.

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