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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Signal Hill in Los Angeles County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
 

Oil Fires on the Hill

Part of the “Memory Necklace”

 

—A Series of Historical Panels Located in the Hilltop Loop Trail —

 
Oil Fires on the Hill Marker image. Click for full size.
By Michael Kindig, November 24, 2016
1. Oil Fires on the Hill Marker
Inscription. High concentrations of natural gas posed a constant danger to oilmen developing the Signal Hill field in the form of “gassers,” “gushers,” gas flares and fires. When Shell Oil completed its second well in 1921. It was a “gasser” that blew out and caught fire. The flames shot 125 feet in the air and were visible from 12 miles away on land and from 30 miles out in the sea. The “gasser,” which flowed natural gas at an estimated 20 million cubic feet per day, was finally extinguished by using 17 steam boilers over 36 hours. 100 pounds of dynamite snuffed out the flames of the Martin #1, another Shell well, that blew in as a “gasser.”

The Black and Drake well near Walnut and Willow (to the left of this view shed) was a huge “gusher.” During the month it blew uncontrolled, it spewed a lake of oil about 30 feet in diameter. The “gusher” blew rocks through adjacent homes burying the neighborhood 4 - 5 feet deep.

Gas flares were common enough that many wells did not need any other lighting to operate at night. When conditions like a wintry cold fog trapped it low to the ground, the raw gas became a time bomb. Any spark (cigarette, automobile, etc.) could have explosive effects.

In 1933, a blast of fumes at the Richfield Meander
Oil Fires on the Hill Marker image. Click for full size.
By Michael Kindig, November 24, 2016
2. Oil Fires on the Hill Marker
plant near Lime and 27th, killed eight people and destroyed several nearby homes and derricks. In 1958, a 40-hour oil froth fire burned 27 of 33 acres of the Hancock Oil Co. refinery, killing two and causing $9 million in damage. The small city of Signal Hill probably faced the most difficult fire hazards of any city its size in the state. The city is proud of the memory of its old fire department, which comprised a fire chief and about a dozen men, and developed techniques for fighting oil fires that resulted in a remarkably low rate of fire destruction. (Marker Number 5.)
 
Location. 33° 48.016′ N, 118° 9.896′ W. Marker is in Signal Hill, California, in Los Angeles County. Marker is on Panorama Drive, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2601-2607 Panorama Drive, Signal Hill CA 90755, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Hilltop Park (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); “Tribute to the Roughnecks” (about 600 feet away); Broadcasting and Music on the Hill (about 700 feet away); Early Aviation on the Hill (approx. 0.2 miles away); Japanese Farming on the Hill
Panorama Promenade image. Click for full size.
By Michael Kindig, November 24, 2016
3. Panorama Promenade
(approx. ¼ mile away); Car Climbs on the Hill (approx. 0.4 miles away); "Unity Monument" (approx. 0.4 miles away); Discovery of Oil on the Hill (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Signal Hill.
 
Categories. DisastersIndustry & Commerce
 
Panorama Promenade image. Click for full size.
By Michael Kindig, November 24, 2016
4. Panorama Promenade
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on December 15, 2016, by Michael Kindig of Long Beach, California. This page has been viewed 193 times since then and 66 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on December 15, 2016, by Michael Kindig of Long Beach, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
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