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37 treated after 'bizarre' chemical explosion in Santa Paula

Firefighters investigate the cause of an explosion in Santa Paula

After "bizarre" chemical explosions Tuesday at a Santa Paula wastewater treatment site, mandatory evacuations remain in place, 37 people have been treated, and firefighters and the plant's owner are bewildered.

The chemical, an organic peroxide, is unlike anything Ventura County firefighters have ever seen before, fire Capt. Mike Lindbery said.

"We don't know what it is," he said. "It's bizarre."

Evacuations were still in place Wednesday for all residents and businesses within half a mile of the Santa Clara Waste Water Co. facility in the 800 block of Mission Rock Road. It is unclear when authorities plan to lift those orders.

The chemical is highly combustible, he said. Just walking or placing an object on the substance created flareups.

The explosion occurred about 3:45 a.m. after two workers were removing 1,200 gallons of a chemical with a vacuum truck at the facility, fire officials said.

The explosion caused the chemical, which crystallized, to shoot out at least 300 feet, sparking smaller flareups.

Firefighters immediately pulled back and ordered evacuations of the area.

Firefighters are working with the facility owner to determine what type of chemical spilled. Hazmat has remained at the site to monitor any flareups.

Facility owner Doug Edwards said he had hired a environmental cleaning service for cleanup.

"I am at a loss to see how this happened," he said. "We just don't know what this [chemical] cocktail was."

The company treats, recycles and disposes of non-hazardous waste that comes from industrial sites. The vacuum truck, which moves around the facility, was transferring the chemicals when the explosion occurred.

Canine Adoption and Rescue League staff said they had to leave behind 71 dogs at their facility in the 900 block of Mission Rock Road during the evacuation.

They were able to reenter the facility late Tuesday to check on the dogs, which were doing well. But one dog was taken to a veterinarian hospital after the fumes affected her eye tissue, according to the rescue.

Anyone seeking information is urged to call the Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services at (805) 465-6650 or visit vcemergency.com.

For breaking news throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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