Maywood residents sue over toxic recycling fire

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

More than 100 Maywood residents have sued the owners of a recycling facility that was the site of a massive fire in June.

About 200 people were evacuated in the southeast L.A. community during a fire that lasted nearly 30 hours. Flames exploded after firefighters poured water on some of the roughly 10,000 pounds of magnesium stored at Panda International Trading Co. The fire, dubbed the "Fruitland Fire" after the facility's Fruitland Avenue address, spewed smoke and toxic fumes into the air.

Several residents suffered personal injuries and economic losses because of the fire, said James Pettis, the attorney representing the plaintiffs.

“They were exposed to chemicals,” Pettis told KPCC. “Some of them had their windows knocked out. There was ash on their cars. Food in their refrigerator, for example, all spoiled. They had to get new clothes. That kind of thing. So it’s just from the very basics all the way to property damage to the homes.”

Plaintiffs named Panda International and another company, Sokor Metals, as defendants. They specifically named the owners of the companies — Da Xiong “David” Pan and Ashoor Koriel, respectively — along with another company, Pacific Machinery Moving Inc.

The plaintiffs’ allegations include negligence on the part of the defendants, private and public nuisance, trespass, negligent infliction of emotional distress, ultra hazardous activity and unfair competition.

Pan’s attorney, Salvatore Coco, tells KPCC he welcomes the lawsuit.

"In a way, I think the lawsuit's not a bad thing. I think we have to get to the bottom of what happened here and I don’t think that’s been done yet. I think the people of Maywood need to know exactly what happened too," Coco says.

Coco laid a chunk of the blame on SoCal Edison. "I’ve been saying since late June that the fire started with the Edison poles that were above my client’s building," Coco tells KPCC. "The Edison poles were on fire. They fell and ignited the building on fire."

He says he is "disappointed" that the power company hasn't been named in the lawsuit but he is confident that at some point they will be.

According to Coco, Panda International has been closed since the June 14 fire. But even before then, Coco tells KPCC that owner David Pan was going to close down the business but the fire occurred before he had a chance. 

The closure stems from a 2013 case involving code violations involving the violation of laws regarding hazardous waste storage. There is no word on whether Panda International and sub-tenant Sokor Metals had properly stored their materials on the day of the fire.

The EPA began a cleanup effort at the site of the fire in mid-October.

You can read the full complaint below: