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L.A. River Creatures OK After 5 Freeway Tanker Fire

A helicopter, upper left, is dwarfed by the vast black plume near the 2 and 5 freeways.

Grant Kirkwood PhotographyA helicopter, upper left, is dwarfed by the vast black plume near the 2 and 5 freeways.

The horrific spill of 8,500 gallons of blazing gas from an overturned truck at the 2 and 5 freeways that poured through storm drains -- and toward the L.A. River -- spared thousands of creatures in the region's important bird flyway.

That's right -- Los Angeles River is an important bird flyway. But because of the intense burnoff of gas, there was "little environmental damage," says Andrew Hughan of the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. "As far as we can determine, no fuel made its way to the Los Angeles River. The gas burns hot and quickly. Most fuel was destroyed in the fire. A couple gallons of fuel ended up in a sandbar area outside the L.A. River, and was contained in the first 100 feet of the channel." Many had feared an eco-disaster:

Birdwatchers often flock to the L.A. River

News reports Sunday and Monday morning detailed how the burning fuel headed straight into storm drains that fed directly into the cement-channelized river. Some environmentalists expressed fear that the river's animal life was endangered.

Over the years, Mother Nature has gradually reclaimed parts of the Los Angeles River, developing small islands covered with lush woodlands just south of the 2 and 5 freeway intersection, particularly in the Frogtown area near Glassell Park.