More than two dozen people have gone to local hospitals after they were exposed to chemical fumes from an explosion at a water waste company in Santa Paula.
At about 3:45 a.m., two workers were removing 1,200 gallons of a chemical, possibly an organic peroxide, with a vacuum truck at Santa Clara Waste Water Co. in the 800 block of Mission Rock Road when it suddenly exploded, fire officials said.
FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post identified the company where the explosion took place as the Santa Clara Water Waste Co. It is the Santa Clara Waste Water Co.
The chemical, when it hit the air, crystallized and became combustible, fire spokeswoman Lori Ross said.
"It can spontaneously ignite, and that's what it did," she said.
The explosion caused the chemical to shoot out at least 300 feet, creating smaller flare-ups, said Capt. Mike Lindbery of the Ventura County Fire Department.
Authorities ordered all businesses and agricultural ranches within a mile of the spill to evacuate because the risk of more explosions was high, fire officials said. A school also was closed.
Firefighters pulled back because their shoes were sparking explosions as they walked on the dry chemical, Lindbery said.
Because firefighters were not sure what type of chemical was spilled, they were allowing the fiery explosion to burn out without water. Meanwhile, they're keeping their distance.
The truck's occupant was taken to an hospital, as were three firefighters who experienced problems after exposure to the chemical, fire officials said. A fifth person drove himself to the hospital.
Soon after, first responders, medical workers and people in the vicinity of the explosions began trickling into local hospitals to be checked for symptoms as well as decontaminated, said Sheila Murphy, spokeswoman for the Ventura County Medical Center.
They complained of burning eyes and difficulty breathing.
Workers and visitors at the Todd Road Jail were ordered to shelter in place, Lindbery said. Anyone within 3 miles of the explosion also was ordered to shelter in place.
Canine Adoption and Rescue League staff said they left 71 dogs at their facility in the 900 block of Mission Rock Road during the evacuation, but haven't been allowed to reenter the area to rescue them.
Highway 126 was closed but has since reopened between Peck and Wells roads, but Mission Rock Road remained closed as of the time this post was written.
Briggs Elementary School at 14438 W. Telegraph Road also was closed because of the explosion.
Those seeking shelter were advised to visit the Red Cross at 530 W. Main St.
Anyone seeking information is urged to call the Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services at (805) 465-6650 or visit vcemergency.com.