Officials investigate cause of fire at Carson refinery; impact on gas prices unclear

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A massive fire that burned overnight at a Carson refinery did not cause any injuries and was under control Wednesday morning.

The industrial blaze began shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday at the Marathon Petroleum Corp. refinery and involved a piece of pressurized equipment that was being fed by an unknown type of fuel, Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain Tony Imbrenda said.

An explosion preceded the blaze, which raged as it burned the fuel continuously flowing into the equipment. Carson residents told KTLA the blast was so strong the ground shook.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation.

Crews were able to get the blaze under control after the fuel supply was cut off, allowing flames to only burn residual fuel inside the equipment, Imbrenda said.

The blaze burning at the refinery located near the intersection of South Main Street and East Sepulveda Boulevard was nearly out as of 5 a.m. Wednesday.

All personnel have been accounted for and no injuries were reported, the refinery’s health and safety manager said during a news conference.

The manager also said the fire only shut down the impacted unit and the lines that feed it. He did not believe the incident would impact the refinery’s overall production.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. is the largest refinery on the West Coast. The company said a portion of the refinery was shut down in response to the fire, but it gave no details.

Spokesperson Brianna Patterson issued a statement on behalf of the refinery, and said it was too early to speculate on whether gas prices would be affected.

“Right now, we’re focused on ensuring that we’re containing and controlling the fire as quickly and safely as possible. The safety of our employees and the surrounding community is our top priority,” the statement read.

The fire caused an immediate price spike on the gasoline trading market but that was quickly cut in half and the ultimate impact on pump prices was uncertain, an analyst told the Associated Press.

“It’s still possibly a little too early to tell what the impacts are going to be at the pump," said Denton Cinquegrana, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, which monitors the global fuel supply industry.

“It sounds like as spectacular as the fire looked, a lot of the major operations may not have been impacted," he said.

At one point, the fire prompted officials to shut down the 405 Freeway at Wilmington Avenue. The freeway was reopened about an hour later.

The refinery is equipped with an air monitoring system, which has not detected any dangerous chemicals in the air. “The public doesn’t need to worry right now about any respiratory hazards,” Imbrenda said.

Officials are still asking people to stay away from the refinery and stay indoors if possible.

Still, they assured residents air quality was fine. Monitoring for cancer-causing fumes has been underway since the blaze erupted, said Carson Mayor Albert Robles.

“There is nothing to be concerned about,” Robles said in an afternoon news briefing. “There were no toxins that were released, and all air quality monitoring indicates the air and environment are safe.”

Brad Levy, vice president of Marathon Petroleum, said portable testing units were being set up around community to conduct additional monitoring.

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