Huntington Beach residents and firefighters cheered as the top of a bent oil derrick, which had been twisting in the air since earlier in the day, was lowered to the ground Monday evening.
It took the crew about six hours to safely dismantle the 60-foot steel structure at Walnut Avenue and Second Street. Several homes and 10 apartments were evacuated when the damage occurred.
The derrick buckled at about 1:33 p.m. while a crew was doing routine maintenance work on the well, according to fire Capt. Bob Culhane. The top half bent at about a 45-degree angle as rods were being pulled from the ground.
An adjacent home in danger of being hit if the structure fell and 10 apartments that could have been hit by debris were evacuated.
"It's possible it could hit that house 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.
A welder began using a cutting torch on the derrick about 7 p.m., sending embers raining down to the ground, but not before various safety precautions were taken.
Culhane said Southern California Edison turned off power to the area by 4 p.m., leaving 42 customers — residences and businesses — without electricity for the afternoon.
A Huntington Beach HAZMAT team was on the scene to detect whether any flammable gas was seeping from the ground. A few firefighters stood nearby in case anything went wrong.
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 excitement of the day.
"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 cell phone as she walked around the block, waiting for the crew to wrap up and for her power to come back on.
"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."