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

More galleries on Framework

return to gallery

1979 Torrance oil tank fire

Japanese American internment: Pomona Assembly Center

For the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942, the major Los Angeles County assembly area was built at the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia. As it neared capacity, a second...   View Post»

   

1979 Torrance oil tank fire

Pictures in the News | December 1, 2014

Monday's Pictures in the News begins in South Africa, where children from the Zip Zap circus school perform during the World AIDS Day concert in Khayelitsha township. South...   View Post»

   

1917 glass plates offer glimes into WWI-Era Russia

1917 glass plates offer glimpses into WWI-era Russia

All her life, Barbara Hoffmann heard the story about her grandfather, John Wells Rahill – how he left his wife and baby daughter in 1917 for Russia. He had signed up with the...   View Post»

   

Robert F. Kennedy assassination

Busboy in Kennedy assassination photo asks for forgiveness

Immortalized forever in an iconic image of the mortally wounded Robert F. Kennedy moments after being shot by an assassin's bullet was a 17-year-old busboy. That busboy, Juan...   View Post»

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

Follow Scott Harrison on Twitter and Google+

Thumbnail view of all From the Archive posts.

No comments yet

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