Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Dec. 4, 1979: Gasoline tank at Mobil Torrance refinery burns following explosion. This photo was published in a Dec. 4, 1979 Los Angeles Times late edition.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 4, 1979: A ring of water circles burning gasoline tank at Mobil refinery in Torrance. This photo was published in the Dec. 5, 1979 Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: R. L. Oliver / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 4, 1979: Aerial view of the burning gasoline storage tank at Mobil Refinery in Torrance. This photo was published in the Dec. 6, 1979 Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Richard L. Oliver / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 4, 1979: Smoke from Mobil refinery fire in Torrance is visible from downtown Los Angeles. This photo was published in a Los Angeles Times late edition on Dec. 4, 1979.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: R. L. Oliver / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 4, 1979: Gasoline storage tank burns at the Mobil Refinery in Torrance following an explosion on Dec. 3, 1979. This photo was published in the Dec. 5, 1979 Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 4, 1979: A smoke plume visible throughout the Los Angeles Basin is caught by the breeze as it rises from a burning gasoline tank at Torrance refinery. View is north from San Pedro. View from about ten miiles away. This photo was published in the Dec. 5, 1979 Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 5, 1979: Firefighters keep watch as two-day-old gasoline tank fire at Mobil refinery in Torrance burns itself out. Cause of fire, which consumed $2 million worth of unleaded gasoline and caused evacuation of 300, was under investigation. This photo was published in the Dec. 6, 1979 Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Geof Payne / Los Angeles Times

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1979 Torrance oil tank fire

On Monday, Dec. 3, 1979, vapors leaking from a gasoline storage tank at the Mobil Oil facility in Torrance ignited, causing a major explosion. Three people were killed. Firefighters contained the flames to the storage tank, then for two days allowed the remaining gasoline to burn. The smoke plume was seen all over the Los Angeles Basin – and photographed by Los Angeles Times photographers.

Staff writer Roger Smith reported in the Dec. 6, 1979 Los Angeles Times:

The crumpled Mobil Oil Corp. tank was still coughing flames and smoke Wednesday morning as 300 nearby residents, who had been evacuated Tuesday, began moving back into their homes. …

Firefighters speculated that the fire was caused by an electrical spark which ignited vapors leaking from the tank. One refinery worker was killed Monday when the tank first exploded. A second worker and a passing motorist, who also were engulfed by the initial explosion, died Tuesday at a Torrance hospital.

The fire consumed 1.8 million gallons of unleaded gasoline, which has a retail value of more than $2 million. The Tank melted into a smoldering heap.

Firefighters kept the fire from spreading by pouring up to 200,000 gallons of water a minute on surrounding fuel tanks. At the height of the blaze Tuesday, 32 fire engines and 125 firefighters battled the flames.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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