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Vernon oil-and-tar fire

Vernon oil-and-tar fire

The original Jan. 14, 1953, Los Angeles Times caption reported:

Firemen use foam to fight oil and tar flames at Vernon asphalt emulsion plant. Fire was punctuated by series of solvent tank explosions but 25 employees were able to escape. Damage was $100,000.

A short Times story added:

Fire swept swiftly yesterday through a large asphalt emulsion plant of the Pioneer-Flintkote Co. Vernon, causing damage estimated at $100,000 and endangering 25 employees who fled to safety.

Two tanks from which solvent had been emptied exploded in the intense heat, rocking the area as firemen from Vernon, Los Angeles City, Los Angeles County and Huntington Park fought the flames.

The fire was confined to the two-story steel structure at 2116 E. 55th St. and away from a nearby asphalt refinery.

A company spokesman said the fire apparently started when a quantity of emulsion became overheated, showering the flaming mixture throughout the plant, which is 300 by 200 feet in size.

Black clouds of smoke billowed skyward as the intense flames shot through the building in the midday drizzle.

Flames were brought under control within an hour, but some units of firemen remained to snuff out further possible outbreaks and to protect five 14,000-gallon tanks of asphalt and solvent adjoining the burned structure.

The company manufactures roofing material on 35 acres of property at 55th and Alameda Sts.

This photo by retired staff photographer Paul Calvert was published on the Times’ Jan. 14, 1953, front page. Because of the intense flames, Calvert later titled the image “White Heat.”

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