Santa Paula Times

SPFD, VCFD respond to natural gas leak near oil field flare

March 06, 2013
Santa Paula News

Firefighters from two agencies responded to a possible ruptured gas line north of Santa Paula Thursday that was reported next to an oil-flaring operation.

The February 28 incident was reported at about 3:45 p.m. in the 14100 block of Ojai Santa Paula Road, also known as Highway 150, near Camp Bartlett. Santa Paula and Ventura County Fire engines responded to the scene in the unincorporated area of the county, where SPFD Assistant Chief Kevin Fildes said a passerby had discovered the natural gas leak.

“Someone going by saw it, smelled it and heard it and called 9-1-1,” said Fildes. The passerby who reported the leak waited for emergency personnel to respond to the scene, and Santa Paula Fire Department - the closest responder - arrived first.

Emergency responders found a broken 2 1/4-inch line was leaking gas just 50 feet from the flaring operation, though winds were blowing the gas away from the oilfield activity. Fildes said the “low pressure” natural gas line had been damaged, “probably a couple days prior,” when a new tank pad and equipment was being installed.

“Low volume gas typically rises in the air,” and Fildes said at first fire personnel were not sure what kind of gas was leaking. “Coming out of a natural well, it could have been all sorts of different gases with all sorts of different components” that could make the leaking gas highly explosive and/or toxic.

Fildes said fire departments “don’t carry the appropriate equipment for that type of incident,” so Vintage Production, a petroleum company with local operations, was notified. “It’s not their well, but they have wells in the area... they responded” to the well operated by Thompson Oil Co., and “were able to help us turn some knobs off that isolated the leak and made it safe.”

The leak was fixed and firefighters were able to leave the scene by 5:25 p.m.