Refinery Fire Contained After Powerful Blasts Rattle Carson Area

A fire that forced the closure of the nearby 405 Freeway was nearly out early Wednesday morning

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An explosion rocked a California oil refinery Tuesday night, sparking a large fire that was visible more than 20 miles away and frightening nearby residents.

The fire at the Marathon Petroleum Corporation refinery temporarily closed all lanes of the 405 Freeway in Carson.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department said the fire sparked at about 10:50 p.m. An explosion went off before the fire began burning in a cooling tower at the refinery, the department said.

Explosions and a large fire shut down the 405 Freeway temporarily. As seen on NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

"It rattled my house, my windows," said resident Ashley Souza, one of several people who said they felt the blasts late Tuesday.

Veronica Blackey was standing on her front porch when she saw a ball of fire.

"You could see the flames, huge, lighting up the night sky," she said.


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The fire was contained by early Wednesday morning and HazMat teams were at the scene to monitor air quality, fire officials tweeted just before 3 a.m. PT. No harmful contaminants were detected, authorities said early Tuesday.

The fire department recommended, as a precaution, that residents in the area stay indoors, but authorities said later that sheltering in place was no longer necessary.

"At this time, the fire is nearly out," Inspector Sean Ferguson, of the LA County Fire Department, said early Wednesday. "We have a little bit of residual fuel that's still in the pipeline."

Newschopper4 Bravo was over the fire around 11 p.m. with high flames visible, and the 405 Freeway was temporarily shut down in both directions near the refinery as a precaution.

Pricilla Reyes, a resident of Carson, said she felt and heard multiple explosions. Another viewer in Bellflower said she felt an explosion.

The towering flames were visible as far away as Santa Monica, nearly 22 miles north of Carson, NBCLA photographer Kenny Holmes reported.

Personnel from the refinery's fire brigade were keeping the flames in check while crews worked to depressurize the system, fire officials said. Authorities secured a perimeter around the refinery and did not anticipate needing to evacuate residents, officials said.

Marathon 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. It manufactures gasoline and diesel fuel, along with distillates, petroleum coke, anode-grade coke, chemical-grade propylene, fuel-grade coke, heavy fuel oil and propane, the website says.

A fire burns Tuesday Feb. 25, 2020 at a refinery in Carson. Credit: R Chapin

Authorities could not immediately confirm what sparked the fire. No injuries have been reported so far.

The northbound lanes of the 405 Freeway were reopened around 11:35 p.m. Nearby streets reopened later Wednesday morning.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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