Burning garbage and grass send up plume of black smoke near Wilmington oil refinery

A large, drifting plume of black smoke rises behind a waterfront area
Smoke from the fire could be seen throughout the South Bay.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles firefighters battled a large outdoor fire that launched a column of black smoke that could be seen throughout much of the South Bay on Wednesday afternoon.

The fire broke out at 2:38 p.m. at an industrial facility in Wilmington at 1420 N. Alameda St., near the Marathon Los Angeles oil refinery, according to the L.A. Fire Department.

At 2:40 p.m., officers responded to a report that a man who might have set the fire was spotted in the 1700 block of East Colon Street, said Officer William Cooper, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department.


Officers took the man into custody, but Cooper said he could not confirm Wednesday night whether the man had formally been arrested or if he would face charges related to the fire.

The fire burned through garbage and grass near shipping containers, firefighters said.

“Reports of loud sounds nearby have prompted an LAFD hazardous-materials response,” the fire department said.

At its height, the fight against the fire involved 88 city firefighters, who were joined by county personnel, officials said.

It took 93 minutes to extinguish the fire, firefighters said.

“Explosions heard early in the incident prompted a HazMat investigation, but the those loud noises turned out to be tires exploding rather than something more dangerous or toxic,” firefighters said.

Authorities found welding materials at the scene but the canisters weren’t damaged and didn’t contribute to the fire, officials said.

The blaze was contained to the outside yard and no structures were threatened, firefighters said. No one was reported injured.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the city fire and police departments.