Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Oct. 4, 1928: The collapse of the drill shaft in month-old Getty well fire leads to two flames. On the right is burning gas, on the left is burning oil.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: LA Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

Sept. 19, 1928: Firefighters lay hoses to protect homes from an oil well fire in Santa Fe Springs.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: LA Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

Sept. 19, 1928: Ford Alexander, right, and his unidentified brother wear special asbestos firefighting suits during fight to control burning Getty well.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: LA Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

Nov. 4, 1928: The five-ton steel cap sits in front of the steam-powered crane that placed it on burning Getty oil well. The well had started burning on Sept. 16.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: LA Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

June 11, 1929: The fourth fire in nine months breaks out at Santa Fe Springs oil field. One of the wells, owned by McKeon Oil Co., burned for 26 days.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

June 1929: Workers dig a tunnel in an effort to cap the burning McKeon oil well behind them in Santa Fe Springs.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: LA Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

More galleries on Framework

return to gallery

Santa Fe Springs oil well fires

1960 tour of Vandenberg Air Force Base

Following the Soviet Union’s Oct. 4, 1957, launch of the Sputnik 1,  the United States scrambled to launch its own satellite and rushed to deploy intercontinental ballistic...   View Post»

   

Santa Fe Springs oil well fires

Pictures in the News | April 28, 2015

Tuesday's Pictures in the News begins on the East Coast, where people start cleaning up outside of a CVS pharmacy in Baltimore after the pharmacy was set on fire in the wake of...   View Post»

   

Nearly 100-year-old lighthouse shines again

99-year-old lighthouse gleams again

The Angels Gate lighthouse’s signature vertical black stripes, which can be seen from Santa Catalina Island on a clear day, gleamed a little brighter on Wednesday after an...   View Post»

   

Santa Fe Springs oil well fires

Pictures in the News | March 22, 2012

Thursday's Pictures in the News begins in Toulouse, France, where a standoff with the suspect in a series of shootings ended with the death of Mohamed Merah in a police raid. ...   View Post»

   

Santa Fe Springs oil well fires

Pictures in the News | December 12, 2011

Monday's Pictures in the News begins in Bethlehem, where a Greek Orthodox priest walks in the Church of the Nativity in the biblical West Bank city. Tourists from all over the...   View Post»

   

Fallen LAPD officers honored

Fallen LAPD officers honored

LAPD officers gather for the annual Los Angeles police memorial ceremony at the LAPD Administration Building in downtown Los Angeles.  The LAPD honors officers who were killed...   View Post»

   

Santa Fe Springs oil well fires

Pictures in the News | May 2, 2011

Monday Pictures in the News begin in New York, where crowds, after learning of Osama Bin Laden's death, gather at the construction site of the former World Trade Center...   View Post»

   

Santa Fe Springs oil well fires

Pictures in the News | Jan. 14, 2011

Friday's Pictures in the News begins in Brazil, where the death toll from a landslide area in Teresopolis has climbed to 479. We have an aerial view from the highest place on...   View Post»

   

Santa Fe Springs oil well fires

Pictures in the News | Dec. 28, 2010

We begin today's Pictures in the News on a somber note with the remains of a U.S. Marine killed in action in Afghanistan returning home. In Israel, an apparent accident sets...   View Post»

   

Santa Fe Springs oil well fires

The 38th Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor

All eyes in the golf world are focused on Wales, where the United States and Europe will square off in the 38th Ryder Cup. The matches will begin Friday; but plenty is going...   View Post»

Santa Fe Springs oil well fires

September 16, 1928: A George F. Getty Inc. well exploded at the Santa Fe Springs oil fields, igniting a fire that burned for almost two months. According to a Los Angeles Times caption the next day, the shock wave from the explosion was felt more than a mile away.

This oil field fire was one of several that occurred on a regular basis around Los Angeles in the 1920s. The Times article the next day began:

With a gas blowout that shook the country for miles around and hurled a 122-foot steel derrick clear over onto Telegraph Road, the old Santa Fe Springs oil field, now in process of development to the 6000-foot zone, yesterday harked back to the days of 1922 when its notorious gas blowouts tore great craters in the earth and burned for many days before they could be extinguished. Within an hour after the blowout occurred yesterday the fire was so intense that field workers and firemen could not get within 1000 feet of the gasser. All the available fire apparatus in the district was being used to protect surrounding property.

To extinguish the Getty blowout, a two-pronged strategy was used. First, a 200-foot underground shaft was dug to a spot 60 feet below the flames. Enough gas and oil were diverted to lower the force driving the flames.

The second step was completed on Nov. 4. A special crane lowered  a five-ton steel cap on the well, snuffing out the flames.

Five days later, another Santa Fe Springs oil well, owned by Bell View Oil Co., blew. Four neighboring derricks burned and four more were toppled to prevent them from burning. One worker was killed. The fire was reported out in a Dec. 2, 1928, Los Angeles Times article.

On Jan. 9, 1929, another blowout and fire destroyed two Santa Fe Springs wells. That fire was put out three days later.

On June 10, 1929, two more wells caught fire and seven derricks were destroyed. One of the well fires was extinguished in a week. The other, owned by McKeon Oil Co., burned for 26 days with the now-familiar tunnel-and-cap method used to smother the flames.

According to a June 29, 1929, story, a 75-foot-long tunnel was dug 40 feet below the burning well. A 12-by-12-foot chamber allowed workers to attach equipment to siphon off oil. About 2900 barrels burned each day. The well was capped on July 6, 1929.

The Los Angeles Times covered the first Getty well fire extensively on the local news front page with a long story and photo. All three of the other fires received the same treatment on the day following the blowout. But follow-up coverage of the last three fires was confined to small updates inside the Times.

The Getty fire also received a full write up in this February 1929 edition of Popular Science.

Most Los Angeles Times staff images before 1950 did not receive photo credit. All attempts to identify the photographer or photographers of these images have failed.

Thumbnail view of all From the Archive posts.

TECH NOTES:

These six Los Angeles Times fire images were shot on glass negatives. The first four images in the gallery were of the Getty well blowout in 1928. The last two were from the McKeon fire in 1929. Edges and small sections of the emulsions have started to separate from the glass base, leaving degraded areas that could not be cropped out.

1 Comment

  1. March 21, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Who Was the Los Angeles county fire Captain on this fire in 1928

    By: bgreg616

Add a comment or a question.

If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate. Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.

Required

Required, will not be published