Fire burns at oil refinery in Carson
CARSON, Calif. (AP) – A fire that erupted at an oil refinery Monday afternoon sent plumes of black smoke billowing over the Los Angeles skyline, but no one was injured and no evacuations were ordered.
Huge balls of fire rocketed into the air as the blaze raged out of control at the Tosco refinery in this South Bay suburb 15 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.
”There is black boiling smoke, jet black, and periodic boiling up flames right at the base – there it is again,” Alan Wayne said as he watched the blaze from his office building, about two miles away.
Firefighters had the blaze under control by 7:30 p.m., said Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Roland Sprewell. Its cause was not known.
The fire erupted at 4:52 p.m. in the refinery’s ”coker” unit, where petroleum coke – a type of coal – is burned in the process of making gasoline, said Tosco spokesman Andy Perez.
The refinery produces approximately 125,000 barrels of oil per day and was running at full capacity at the time of the fire. The Carson plant processes crude oil, then ships it to a Tosco refinery in nearby Wilmington where it is turned into gasoline.
Perez said it was not immediately known whether the fire would affect the company’s gasoline output or when the coker unit would reopen.
As the fire raged in an industrial area dotted with storage tanks, huge plumes of black smoke billowed into the clear-blue afternoon sky, and witnesses reported seeing them as far as 50 miles away.
About 200 people work at the Carson plant, including operators in the coker unit, but all were safely evacuated and accounted for, Perez said.
Some of the smoke drifted over a nearby residential neighborhood. No evacuations were ordered but residents were asked to stay inside with windows and doors closed, Perez said.
Jerry Martin, spokesman for the state Air Resources Board, said the most likely emissions from the fire were benzene and 1,3 butadiene, both identified as toxic and cancer-causing.
”If you’re downwind of the refinery I would advise people to stay indoors if at all possible,” Martin said. ”Children, older people, people with illnesses in particular should make sure they’re not breathing this.”
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