Long Beach and Los Angeles Fire Fighters Bring Big Blaze Under Control After Six-Hour Battle

LONG BEACH and Los Angeles City firemen teamed up early on the morning of July 22 to make a fine stop of a booming refinery fire in the Los AngelesLong Beach Harbor area.

A fire in the Wilmington Gas. Co., 1355 W. Ocean Blvd., on Terminal Island, started shortly before 1 a.m., when a high pressure pipeline broke. Butane, propane, and other volatile liquids are processed at the big refinery.

At 1 a.m. the L.A.F.D.’s San Pedro district signal office received the alarm and rolled Engines 40 and 86, Fireboats 2 and 3, Acting Batt. Chief Trig Thorsen.

Meanwhile, the Long Beach Fire alarm center also received the alarm at l:02 and, since the city limits actually bisect the refinery, responded with full assignment, including Engines 3, 6 5; Truck 2, Fireboat 1, Squad 1, and Batt. Chief Glenn Jefferson.

Fire burns around cracking towers at Wilmington Gas Co. in L. A.'s busy harbor district. Firemen from L. A. City and Long Beach Fire Departments subdued $750,000 fire.

L. A. F. D. Photo

Engine 6, under Capt. John Montgomery, arrived just ahead of the firstin L.A. equipment and Capt. Montgomery immediately asked for a second and then a third alarm assignment. The multiple response brought Engines 2, 10, 7, 9, Hose 1, Batt. Chief William Mendenhall, and Long Beach Chief Engineer Frank Sandeman.

L.A. also called for a second and additional equipment, including Engines 38 and 49, Boat Tender 2, and Asst. Chief Joe Quinn, Division I, was dispatched.

Meanwhile the series of explosions had routed several hundred sailors out of their beds in nearby U.S. Naval Base barracks.

All five men working in the plant escaped. Two operators, Edward Dempsey and Lester Graff, risked their lives to reenter the burning plant, to shut off two main valves, which helped firemen a great deal.

By now flames 400 feet high were leaping through parts of the plant and thousands of gallons of butane, propane, and gasoline were in danger of going up. In addition to these tanks filled with highly flammable liquids on the refinery grounds, the naval base and big Ford Motor Co. assembly plants were endangered for a time.

“It was a highly explosive situation to say the least,” commented Chief Sandeman. “We made extensive use of monitors to cool the entire burning area before we actually moved in to extinguish the flames.

“In one sector, a 75-foot high cracking tower caught fire several times, but each time we managed to knock it down.”

Although the fire was entirely in the city of Los Angeles, Long Beach firemen under Chief Sandeman cooperated fully with the L.A. City crews under Chief Quinn.

“I have never seen men from two ‘strange’ departments work so well together,” commented Chief Sandeman. “Chief Quinn and I were in constant communication with each other. I think all the men from both departments should receive high praise for their work.”

Final control of the dangerous blaze came at 6 a.m.

Company officials said damage would run near $750,000.

Investigator George Ayanian of the L.A.F.D. Arson Bureau, said that the fire was caused when volatile gases under pressure caused the rupture of a pipeline in the processing unit.

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