There was a fire at the Chevron refinery in El Segundo, CA, last Tuesday night that still has authorities looking to see what went wrong.
The fire broke out around 10:30 p.m. at or near a malfunctioning pump, said Breck Slover, battalion chief with the El Segundo Fire Department. There was no explosion, but loud bangs from electrical transformers blowing up were heard at the plant. The cause of the pump malfunction is unknown, Slover said.
The fire sent flames nearly 40 feet skyward and burned for about an hour and 20 minutes.
The blaze could have been much worse, Slover said. Emergency personnel shut down the fuel supply to the pump and hosed down some nearby petroleum tanks to prevent them from failing.
“If the tanks failed, it would have been a three- or four-day event,” Slover said.
No one suffered an injury in the incident, Slover said. It’s not clear how much property damage the fire caused.
When the incident was ongoing, a shelter in place was ordered by El Segundo officials in an effort to minimize the effects of drifting smoke.
Neighbors often complain that the refinery, the largest of its kind on the West Coast, emits offensive odors and has caused health problems, but the fire department hasn’t received any formal complaints from residents about Tuesday’s fire, Slover said.
Slover said it’s been at least five years since there was a significant fire at the refinery. The fire department is called to the plant several times a year, he said.
“Anytime something happens over there, it’s got the potential to be really bad,” Slover said.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District is also investigating any potential air quality violations, said spokesman Sam Atwood. A district inspector examined the plant Tuesday night after the fire, Atwood said.