CARSON — A fire that erupted at an oil refinery sent plumes of black smoke billowing over the Los Angeles area Monday afternoon.
Balls of flame could also be seen shooting into the air at the Tosco refinery in this 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 from his office building about two miles east of the flames.
“It has just blackened the sky ... I’ve had enough of this – I’m going to the hockey game.”
Fire engines, a hazardous materials team and at least two ambulances were dispatched to the plant, although no one was reported injured, said county Fire Department spokesman Roland Sprewell.
County Fire Capt. Brian Jordan said firefighters were pouring water on the flames to keep them under control as a crew prepared to turn off the valve delivering the fuel. The area around the valve was as hot as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, so firefighters needed to spray water on the flames to “push the fire away from the valve” so one of them could turn it off.
The fire broke out about 5 p.m., Sprewell said.
The cause was not immediately known.
As the blaze spread through the refinery, in an industrial area dotted with storage tanks, it quickly sent huge plumes of black smoke billowing into the clear-blue sky.
Some of the smoke drifted over a nearby residential neighborhood. Fire Capt. Raymond Schindler said no one was evacuated in the immediate aftermath of the fire but fire officials were evaluating whether to order evacuations.
“They’re monitoring the air quality downwind and will make that determination,” Schindler said.
Jerry Martin, spokesman for the state Air Resources Board, said area residents should be wary of the thick smoke.
“Particulates can contain a lot of different compounds some of which can easily be harmful to the public if inhaled,” he said. “If you’re downwind of the refinery I would advise people to stay indoors if at all possible. ... Children, older people, people with illnesses in particular should make sure they’re not breathing this.”