Rocket Test Site Explosion Hurts Man, Starts Fire

An explosion caused by a liquid oxygen spill at a Rockwell International test site near Simi Valley injured a worker and triggered a small brush fire, Ventura County fire officials said Monday.

The brush fire broke out shortly after the 4:12 p.m. explosion at Rockwell’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory, company spokesman Paul Sewell said. The blaze consumed less than an eighth of an acre about five miles south of Simi Valley and was under control within half an hour.

Sewell said the accident occurred when the worker, who was pumping liquid oxygen from a 28,000-gallon tank, spilled some of the highly explosive material.

The worker, whose name was not released, suffered a minor cut on his hand and was taken to Humana Hospital West Hills for treatment. Officials suspect that the explosion was due to equipment failure or human error.


“It’s not a hazardous procedure under normal circumstances. This is something that’s been done literally a thousand times,” Sewell said.

Sewell said investigators have secured the area, a test site for booster rocket engines used in satellite launches. A test scheduled for today has been canceled until Rockwell completes the investigation.

About 50 Ventura County firefighters and a crew of eight Rockwell firefighters responded to the brush fire.