An oil derrick in a downtown Huntington Beach residential area has been dismantled after buckling and threatening to tumble into an adjacent home, forcing the evacuation of nearby residents.
The top portion of the derrick – twisted and bent at a 45 degree angle – was removed and lowered to the ground Monday evening, and residents were allowed to return to their homes and apartments.
It took an emergency crew about six hours to safely dismantle the 60-foot steel structure at Walnut Avenue and Second Street, near the heart of the city’s downtown.
The derrick buckled at about 1:33 p.m. Monday while a crew was doing routine maintenance work on the well, fire Capt. Bob Culhane said. The top half bent as rods were being pulled from the ground.
"It's possible it could hit that house or because you don't know how it's going to come down," Culhane said. "It could twist and hit some power lines."
He said there was no danger of oil gushing out, however.
A welder began using a cutting torch on the derrick around 7 p.m., with embers raining down to the ground, but not before various safety precautions were taken. Culhane said Southern California Edison turned off power around the area by 4 p.m., leaving 42 customers — residences and businesses — without electricity through the late afternoon and early evening.
A Huntington Beach hazardous-material team was on scene to take gas samples to determine whether any flammable gas was seeping from the ground. The crane that had been stabilizing the structure was able to remove the severed half about 30 minutes later.
"Nobody got hurt. We took our time, but we got the thing out," Culhane said.
Standing around the corner was 86-year-old Alice Parnakian, who lives nearby and witnessed the event unravel.
"We've had a lot of oil booms way back when, but we've never had something where a rig like that has bent over," the 46-year Huntington Beach resident said.
Parnakian clutched her flashlight and cellphone as she walked around the block, waiting for the crew to wrap up and for her power to be restored.
"I've been trying to keep busy," she said. "I watered my yard, I went for a walk and just did stuff around the house where I could still see things to do. But you really can't do anything when the power's out."