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SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Firefighters battled a massive structure fire in South Los Angeles Wednesday morning.

The blaze erupted in a building in the 1700 block of W. Florence Avenue, near Western Avenue in the Harvard Park area of South L.A.

AIR7 HD was over the scene shortly before 6 a.m. as firefighters were on the roof of the building and attempting to extinguish the intense flames.



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Massive drive-thru haunted house experience opens in Bay Area

Talk about a scary moment.

The Fields family was facing the real possibility of having to cancel its annual Pirates of Emerson Halloween haunt at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, unable make dollars and sense of the reduced capacity and other social distancing restrictions that would need to be in place this year.

“We wouldn’t have been able to put the numbers through to justify opening up,” says Brian Fields, who has helped run this popular haunt with his parents, Patty and Karl, for 29 years.

Instead of throwing in the towel, they decided to do something different — something bold — that would work in this COVID-19 age.

“Being the creative family that we are, my dad Karl, Patty and myself put our heads together and came up with this idea of doing this drive-thru,” Fields says.

So load up the car, remember to buckle in tight and get ready to be scared as the Pirates of Emerson evolves into something new for 2020. This massive drive-thru haunt, which covers nearly 10 acres at the Pleasanton fairgrounds, opens to the public on Oct. 2 and runs Thursday through Sunday through Nov. 1.

  • PLEASANTON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Brian Fields, vice president of operations for the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park, stands next to a structure he built to be used at the drive-thru haunted house at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the longtime Halloween favorite has become a haunted house drive-thru. Vehicles will wind their way through a marked path as they view themed frights while listening to a soundtrack on the radio. The haunted drive-thru opens on Friday, Oct. 2. All tickets must be purchased in advance. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

  • PLEASANTON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: A scary skeleton figure at the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park is photographed at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the longtime Halloween favorite has become a haunted house drive-thru. Vehicles will wind their way through a marked path as they view themed frights while listening to a soundtrack on the radio. The haunted drive-thru opens on Friday, Oct. 2. All tickets must be purchased in advance. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

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  • PLEASANTON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Brian Fields, vice president of operations for the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park, is photographed at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the longtime Halloween favorite has become a haunted house drive-thru. Vehicles will wind their way through a marked path as they view themed frights while listening to a soundtrack on the radio. The haunted drive-thru opens on Friday, Oct. 2. All tickets must be purchased in advance. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

  • PLEASANTON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: A scary wild boar lunges out of the wall at the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the longtime Halloween themed park has become a haunted house drive-thru. Vehicles will wind their way through a marked path as they view themed frights while listening to a soundtrack on the radio. The haunted drive-thru opens on Friday, Oct. 2. All tickets must be purchased in advance. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

  • PLEASANTON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: A scary skeleton used to frighten visitors at the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park is photographed at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the longtime Halloween favorite has become a haunted house drive-thru. Vehicles will wind their way through a marked path as they view themed frights while listening to a soundtrack on the radio. The haunted drive-thru opens on Friday, Oct. 2. All tickets must be purchased in advance. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

  • PLEASANTON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: A scary vampire figure at the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park is photographed at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the longtime Halloween favorite has become a haunted house drive-thru. Vehicles will wind their way through a marked path as they view themed frights while listening to a soundtrack on the radio. The haunted drive-thru opens on Friday, Oct. 2. All tickets must be purchased in advance. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

  • PLEASANTON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Brian Fields, vice president of operations for the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park, demonstrates how a costumed employee will try to scare visitors at the drive-thru haunted house at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the longtime Halloween favorite has become a haunted house drive-thru. Vehicles will wind their way through a marked path as they view themed frights while listening to a soundtrack on the radio. The haunted drive-thru opens on Friday, Oct. 2. All tickets must be purchased in advance. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

  • PLEASANTON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Brian Fields, vice president of operations for the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park, opens a trapdoor designed to scare visitors at the drive-thru haunted house at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the longtime Halloween favorite has become a haunted house drive-thru. Vehicles will wind their way through a marked path as they view themed frights while listening to a soundtrack on the radio. The haunted drive-thru opens on Friday, Oct. 2. All tickets must be purchased in advance. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

  • PLEASANTON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Brian Fields, vice president of operations for the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park, stands in one of the areas that will be used to scare visitors at the drive-thru haunted house at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the longtime Halloween favorite has become a haunted house drive-thru. Vehicles will wind their way through a marked path as they view themed frights while listening to a soundtrack on the radio. The haunted drive-thru opens on Friday, Oct. 2. All tickets must be purchased in advance. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

  • PLEASANTON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: A scary figure at the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park is photographed at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the longtime Halloween favorite has become a haunted house drive-thru. Vehicles will wind their way through a marked path as they view themed frights while listening to a soundtrack on the radio. The haunted drive-thru opens on Friday, Oct. 2. All tickets must be purchased in advance. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

  • PLEASANTON, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Brian Fields, vice president of operations for the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Themed Park, demonstrates how a costumed employee will pop out of the wall to scare visitors at the drive-thru haunted house at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the longtime Halloween favorite has become a haunted house drive-thru. Vehicles will wind their way through a marked path as they view themed frights while listening to a soundtrack on the radio. The haunted drive-thru opens on Friday, Oct. 2. All tickets must be purchased in advance. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

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Although the format has changed, the fear factor certainly hasn’t. The Pirates of Emerson should elicit as many screams as ever – perhaps even more – as riders make their way along a mile-long track that runs through a vast array of menacing and macabre sights.

Fright fans will pass through, among other things, a cemetery, a haunted house, a jail and, of course, a pirate ship. And we mean “pass through” in a very literal sense here.

“You are driving through the pirate ships and you are driving through the haunted houses,” Fields says. “You are not driving by them — you are inside them — which is really cool.”

The fog machines will be pumping, blasts of fire will soar into the sky, and the special effects and props will be coming at you from all directions. Combine all that with very active costumed actors, who will be working hard to strike fear as they wield chainsaws, knives and other instruments of pain.

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There’s also a spooky soundtrack in the mix, which patrons can download beforehand and listen to during what should be a 20-minute trek through the haunt.

“If you press play at the same time you are starting, and stay in the 3 m.p.h. zone, the music will kind of match up with where you’re at,” Fields says.

There will also be an FM signal that drivers can tune into, although what they’ll hear there is more overall ambience than scene-specific soundtrack.

Also nice: Drivers and passengers won’t have to spend all evening looking at the brake lights in front of them. Organizers will be using a timed-entry basis for each car.

“We let cars in every 30 seconds,” Fields says. “So that allows — a car driving at 3 m.p.h., 30 seconds between cars — about 150 feet between cars. So you get your own individual experience.”

This will be the 29th year of the Pirates of Emerson, which began as a celebration among friends and neighbors in the backyard of the Fields’ house on Fremont’s Emerson Street (thus the name), but quickly grew into something else.

“It was successful with the neighborhood,” Fields says. “Everybody loved it. It got bigger and bigger every year. Word got out. We had all kinds of cool stuff. We had a shark that came out of the swimming pool. We had a bridge we built over our pool. We had a scuba diver that was in the pool and would come out of the pool at you. It made it like a destination.”

By year seven, Pirates had outgrown the neighborhood, and Fields says city officials told them to shut it down. So, they decided to give up being amateur haunters and go pro, leasing a spot in the Warm Springs area in Fremont.

Eleven years ago, they moved into the fairgrounds, and they have been going strong ever since. The coronavirus situation threw them for a loop, they’re hoping this workaround pleases Bay Area fright fans this Halloween season.

If You Go

Pirates of Emerson, The Drive Thru: Open Thursday-Sunday from Oct. 2 through Nov. 1 at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. Admission is $95 per vehicle. Regular cars only — no motorcycles, motor homes, golf carts, top-down convertibles or pickups carrying passengers in the back. Tickets are only available online in advance. Order tickets and find details at www.piratesofemerson.com.

 

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