A fire at the Torrence Refining Co. has nearby residents on edge as local firefighters begin to investigate the incident. Three dozen firefighters responded to the call on Saturday morning after reports of an oil refinery explosion. According to officials, they were able to extinguish the blaze in 30 minutes.
The fire and possible explosion are a cause for concern because the former Exxon Mobil refinery has been the site of several incidents over the past few years. Protests from residents have formed in past due to safety and environmental issues.
A major explosion occurred at the refinery two years ago that halted operations for more than a year. The explosion filled the air with dust and debris and could have been catastrophic to the surrounding communities.
After ongoing investigations of the incident, it was found that a giant piece of pollution-control equipment called a precipitator blew up. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released findings that showed that one piece of equipment just missed crashing into a tank in the alkylation unit that contained tens of thousands of pounds of modified hydrofluoric acid. If the projectile had hit that tank it could have released a toxic cloud with the potential to cause serious injury or death to many community members.
U.S. Rep. Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles) said he would urge the Chemical Safety Board to include Saturday’s fire in the investigation of the explosion of 2015. the South Coast Air Quality Management District has also proposed phasing out modified hydrofluoric acid at Southern California refineries.
The community will continue to protest against the problematic refinery. A group called the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance has already been planning a rally and march against the refinery before the fire incident happened. The rally was organized in order to demand safety improvements to the facility.