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Explosion Sparks Fire at Chevron Refinery

November 18, 1989

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) _ An explosion sparked a fire and secondary blasts at a Chevron refinery Friday night, but there were no immediate reports of injuries and firefighters said the blaze was stable 1 1/2 hours later.

The fire erupted shortly before 8 p.m. as a result of a ″major explosion,″ said Dara Stone, an El Segundo police spokeswoman.

Ninety minutes later, fire officials described the blaze as ″static,″ saying that it wasn’t growing but wasn’t diminishing either.

All of the dozen people working in the section of the plant where the fire broke out were accounted for late Friday, said Chevron spokesman Rod Spackman. Workers at the plant said flames leaped hundreds of feet into the air when the blaze broke out. The fire poured billows of thick, black smoke into the air.

But John Marie, a bystander about a block away from the fire, said it didn’t appear to be in the area of the refinery towers and ″the flames are relatively small, about five or six feet in the air.″

Firefighters poured streams of water onto the flames that roared within the refinery, located a few miles south of Los Angeles International Airport. The refinery was also located near the large Hughes Aircraft complex, which did not appear to be threatened.

The fire broke out in the refinery’s single largest crude oil processing unit, known as a distillation unit, Spackman said. A seal failed on a primary pump feeding the unit, he said. Hot crude oil spilled from the pump onto the concrete pad surrounding the unit and somehow ignited.

Oil products in the lines were allowed to burn off.

Firefighters from the surrounding Los Angeles County communities of Hawthorne, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Inglewood were called in to battle the blaze, said Paul Zavala, a Hawthorne fire department spokesman.

″There are some toxic materials, we’re told, so it is also a hazardous materials situation,″ Zavala said.

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