Massive fire at oil refinery in California, US, contained after explosion
A large fire broke out at an oil refinery in the city of Carson in California, US, late on Tuesday night, 25 February 2020. An explosion was reported before the fire broke out around 23h00 at Marathon Refinery and aerial footage showed at least two more explosions as the flames continued tearing through the refinery. Officials said no crude oil was involved in the units that were on fire. All personnel have been accounted for and no injuries were reported. Crews were able to set up a perimeter around the Marathon Refinery and no evacuations to residents in the area were necessary, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. Streets surrounding the plant were also closed but were reopened shortly after the Marathon Fire Brigade was able to contain and control the fire, at approximately 4h00 am. As they battled the flames, officials said crews were able to shut off the unit feeding fuel to the fire and all other units that fed the unit in question. Residual pressure from flammable gas was contributing to some of the fire activity, officials said. The Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) was on scene assisting the refinery's fire brigade who was quick to spring into action after the fire broke out.
LACoFD tweeted, “#MarathonIC *Update* Fire fighters continue to make progress reducing the size of this fire, while providing protection to exposures. Residual pressure from remaining flammable gas is still contributing to limited fire activity. Engineers continue work to isolate fuel sources.” Personnel from the refinery kept the flames in check through fixed ground monitors, the LACoFD said.
Some flames were still visible by 6h00 the next morning but fire officials said that was part of a normal process called flaring operations. "This is a standard engineering practice in refinery during the processing of different chemicals that are being distilled here," LA County Fire spokesperson Tony Imbrenda said. "There is off-gassing going on and that gas, rather than being released into the atmosphere, is actually burned off before it gets released so that it really takes all of the dangerous constituents out of the gas before it makes its way into the environment."
"Everybody came out of this thing unscathed, fortunately. Very dangerous incident, we had a significant fireball when our units arrived here. So our tactics, our drilling, our preparation for these types of incident really paid dividends," Imbrenda said.
Refinery officials said that the bulk of refinery is still in operation and they are not expecting any significant impact on the overall production and supply. Marathon Refinery vice president, Brad Levi, explained that while the exact cause of the fire remains under investigation, Light hydrocarbons, particularly methane, ethane, propane and butane, were released and filled to volume but didn't light on fire until they found an ignition source, which would explain reports of a large fireball seen at the time the fire broke out.
Officials monitoring air quality in the immediate area said there were no chemicals or toxins detected at this time and the public doesn't need to worry. However, they advised residents to stay clear of the facility, stay indoors, close their doors and windows and shut off their air conditioning as a safety precaution.
Marathon Refinery Carson is the "largest refinery on the West Coast with a crude oil capacity of 363 000 barrels per calendar day," according to the company's website.
Source: The Los Angeles County Fire Department, Fox LA and ABC Eyewitness News