UPDATE (FOX 11 / CNS): The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued a smoke advisory for areas near the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance due to that explosion and fire. The air-quality agency is advising residents who live near the refinery or who can see or smell smoke to avoid outdoor activity if possible.
People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should remain indoors, according to AQMD.
(FOX 11 / CNS) An explosion at the ExxonMobil Refinery in Torrance today sent a plume of black smoke in the air and caused ash to cascade down on the area, but there were only four minor injuries.
The blast, which apparently occurred in a gas-processing unit, was reported shortly before 9 a.m. at the facility at 3700 W. 190th St., a Torrance fire dispatcher said. One Torrance resident told City News Service the blast shook his home about three miles from the facility, saying it "sounded like someone opened my bedroom door and slammed it shut."
Residents were advised to remain indoors with their doors and windows closed and air conditioners turned off, although there was no immediate word of negative impacts to air quality. Some residents received automated phone calls advising them to stay inside.
Students at 13 Torrance schools were told to shelter in place.
Del Amo Boulevard was closed between Crenshaw Boulevard and Maple Avenue as a precaution, according to the Torrance Police Department.
According to Torrance fire Capt. Steve Deuel, the explosion was followed by a ground fire, which was quickly brought under control. Ash fell on streets and vehicles parked nearby, and the air was dark.
Once the fire was controlled, the refinery activated a "flare system" to burn off fuel, causing flames shooting from a smokestack at the refinery, along with a thick plume of black smoke.
Aerial footage of the refinery showed some areas of twisted metal and some vehicles covered with debris and ash. One vehicle appeared to have a collapsed roof.
"There was explosion, and we believe the product was gasoline that caused the initial explosion," Deuel told CBS2. "What caused the initial explosion, we don't have any idea yet. That'll be a full-on investigation that'll take place to determine that."
He noted that some of the ash-like material seen on the refinery ground may actually be an inert catalyst used in the gas-processing system.
Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey told news media outlets he was in downtown Los Angeles when the blast occurred, but he lives about two blocks from the refinery.
He advised residents to "stay indoors."
"No outdoor activity. Turn your air conditioners off. Keep your windows closed," he said.