Nearly 130 firefighters battled a blaze at a Wilmington refinery Thursday that injured six people and sent flames leaping 50 feet into the air.
The fire started shortly after 5 p.m. in a storage tank containing thick crude oil at the Ultramar Refinery at 2402 E. Anaheim St., fire officials said.
Before it was contained about an hour later, the blaze forced the closure of a nearly four-mile stretch of the Terminal Island Freeway and sent a column of black smoke billowing toward Long Beach.
An Ultramar firefighter suffering from smoke inhalation and a federal firefighter from the Long Beach Naval Shipyard with an injured hand were taken to hospitals. Three refinery workers and a woman believed to be a worker were treated for smoke inhalation at the scene.
Although hazardous materials units were called to the scene, the blaze never posed any serious environmental threat, Los Angeles Assistant Fire Chief Lon Pursell said.
Soon after the fire ignited, Ultramar workers evacuated a nearby Union Pacific railroad facility, a railroad worker said, but the workers returned about an hour later.
Officials said they were unsure how the oil ignited.
The fire erupted shortly after the 50-foot-high tank began to leak. The tank was 85% full when the oil began to seep out, sending a plume of smoke into the air, Pursell said.