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Some Maywood fire evacuees must wait until at least Saturday to go home

The aftermath of the Maywood fire on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
The aftermath of the Maywood fire on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
Los Angeles County Fire Department

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Officials Thursday cleared some residents who live near the site of this week's  huge warehouse fire in Maywood to return to their homes, but others will have to wait at least until Saturday, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

After the explosive fire broke out at around 2 a.m. on Tuesday, some 300 people were told to vacate their homes on either side of a one-block stretch of E. 52nd Street. Those on the south side of the street can go home, but L.A. County Fire says those on the north side - which was closest to the fire - must await the results of indoor air tests.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency collected air samples Thursday from inside the more than 20 single-family homes and several apartment buildings on the north side of E. 52nd Street between Maywood and Everett Aves., said L.A. County Fire spokesman Joey Marron.

It will take 24 hours to process the samples, so it will be late Friday night or early Saturday before officials will know whether the air is clean in those homes, he said. 

The EPA is not testing for residue that may have fallen on indoor surfaces, said Marron.

For its part, the South Coast Air Quality Management District has collected external air samples in the area, he said. 

The Red Cross set up a temporary shelter at the Maywood YMCA for those displaced by the fire. The agency says more than 130 people are still registered at the shelter.

Firefighters used their hoses Wednesday to wash away residue the fire left on homes and vehicles.

https://twitter.com/LACo_FD/status/743270606712377344

The blaze burned for more than 30 hours before it was extinguished on Wednesday.

The fire broke out in an industrial park that contains Gemini Film & Bag, which makes custom plastic films and bags, and Panda International Trading Co., Inc, a metal recycler. Officials say the cause is still under investigation.

Officials believe the fire grew so large because of roughly 10,000 pounds of magnesium shavings stored in barrels and bins at Panda International. Crews initially used their hoses, but adding water to magnesium creates an explosive reaction.

Magnesium fumes can cause breathing difficulties, headaches, weakness, fever, redness and pain in the eyes, abdominal pain and diarrhea, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Panda International's owner, Da Xiong Pan, who also goes by Daniel Pan, faces five felony counts for allegedly violating California's hazardous waste control laws in 2013.  He pleaded not guilty last month; his next court hearing is scheduled for July 15.

The state's Department of Toxic Substances Control said its 2013 investigation led to the filing of the criminal charges. The agency said it discovered evidence indicating that Panda had released toxic levels of copper, lead, zinc, cadmium, nickel and chromium onto the sidewalk in front of its plant.

In addition, Pan never requested a permit from Toxic Substances Control to store, treat or dispose of hazardous waste, said agency spokesman Russ Edmondson.

After Pan was notified of the violations, he "cleaned up, or managed the hazardous waste appropriately," Edmondson said.