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A malfunctioning valve caused a large column of fire to shoot up into the sky Saturday night at the Torrance Refinery, a refinery spokeswoman said.

A Torrance Fire Department official initially said the incident ended up caused by a power outage leading to a cracked pipe that leaked hydrocarbon gas. Barbara Graham of the Torrance Refining Co., however, said that was not the cause.

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A valve at the Torrance Refinery malfunctioned (on Saturday), which resulted in a short, unplanned flaring event,” Graham said. “Operators quickly isolated the valve and the flaring stopped.

“The refinery notified appropriate agencies; there was no offsite impact; and the refinery continues to run according to plan,” she said. “We regret any concern the flaring may have caused and clarify that earlier news reports of a power outage at the refinery causing a cracked pipe were erroneous. Reports attributing the cause of flaring to a power failure and leak are also incorrect.”

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Southern California Edison spokeswoman Sally Jeun said no power outages were reported in Torrance on Saturday.

The flare, which could be seen for miles, prompted 14 complaints to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said spokesman Sam Atwood. Agency inspectors on site that evening were told by refinery personnel the flare was triggered by a “power bump” that caused an upset in the refinery’s saturated-gas unit.

“Our investigation is continuing, and we will evaluate potential enforcement action when we receive (the refinery’s) cause-analysis report of the flaring incident,” Atwood said.

Torrance Fire Department officials responded to a call from the refinery at 5:49 p.m. A HazMat team with the department investigated the incident and found no traces of combustible gas in the refinery and outside in the surrounding area, said Steve Treskes, assistant chief at the Torrance Fire Department.

Traces of the flare could be seen by drivers passing by and as far as the Griffith Observatory, more than 20 miles north of the refinery.

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