Ongoing flares of fire that produced dark smoke and noise followed by releases of white smoke just north of Manhattan Beach today came from work at the Chevron El Segundo Refinery, Manhattan Beach Fire Department Captain Jim Muth told Manhattan Beach Patch late this afternoon.
Jhenell Maxey, who answered Chevron's 24-hour community hotline when MB Patch called, said that the release was "not hazardous."
She and Chevron Fire Battalion Chief Tim Brown said that the South Coast Air Quality Management District was at Chevron monitoring the air quality.
The visible flare of fire and plumes of smoke were the result of a safety maneuever "to balance out pressure," Brown told MB Patch. The "flare is a safety device," he said. In this case, the refinery was starting a plant back up after it had been down for maintenance for three weeks, he told MB Patch.
He told MB Patch that the refinery has "to self report the flare incident" to AQMD.
Muth, a 15-year MB fireman, said, ""I have never been there [the Chevron El Segundo Refinery] on a bad incident."
He said that when a "concerned resident" called today to report a large column of smoke they could see north of their house, MB fire personnel checked the area the caller had named and since they could see a flare at Chevron, called the refinery to find out if the facility had a "release right now," a procedure routinely followed when the fire department becomes aware of a flare at Chevron.
After being told that Chevron had no release at the time, the fire department received a call from Chevron within ten seconds of the first call, said Muth. Chevron stated that they had had a release and that it was controlled and contained and that "everything is OK," said Muth.
Curious drivers and passengers could be seen pulling over on Pacific Avenue one block south of Rosecrans Avenue to take photos of the flares of fire and smoke.
Others on the street appeared unconcerned.
"Over the years, we've seen it [flares of fire and smoke] many times," said Muth. He said that his department trains with the on-site Chevron Fire department periodically.