Fire that erupted after fracas near seaside oil platform off Calif. coast remains active

Officials investigated an oil sheen that appeared on Friday off the coast of California’s Santa Barbara coast after a series of late-night accidents marred a year of what residents had hoped would be a clean-up of the natural gas and oil disaster a year ago.

Cleanup crews got the go-ahead to work at a deserted jetty Monday where several fires broke out Friday night caused by oil from a leak south of the Pegasus Pipeline, which was destroyed and carried Canadian crude oil toward Santa Barbara.

It appeared nothing further leaked, and the incidents could not be definitively linked to the ruptured pipeline that ruptured May 19, authorities said. A 20-inch (51-centimeter) leak was discovered in early July at a location farther south on the line.

Crews monitored the area early Monday.

“It’s not the same site we worked on two months ago,” said Kevin Orcutt, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

The most recent incidents occurred between 7:20 p.m. and 10:20 p.m. Friday and happened about a mile (1.6 kilometers) north of the spot where a fire engulfed a tire storage yard the day before. That fire, which engulfed five trucks, could be seen for miles (kilometers) across the Pacific Ocean.

The 120-mile (190-kilometer) line has remained shut down since the first incident.

Authorities have not identified the source of the fire or explosions and no one was injured.

They’ve called the incidents “incidents of concern” but have yet to determine their cause, but likely will take samples to better understand the integrity of the pipeline.

“We don’t want to rule out an environmental harm,” Orcutt said.

The Santa Barbara Refugio State Beach is four miles (6.4 kilometers) south of the land where a magnitude-8.1 earthquake struck the area on April 19. The quake damaged at least 180 homes. A series of nearly 70 lightning strikes struck the area Friday.

The pipeline started leaking a day before the earthquake rocked the area.

Tests showed the leak had a maximum distance of about a half-mile (one kilometer) from the beach.

The natural gas component was released to avoid the release of explosive oil, though the oil component was expected to be discharged over a much larger area, Terry Mayer, of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department said at a news conference.

Natural gas was toxic, and responders had asked people to evacuate the area around the patch of land they were monitoring.

Officials said no other oil and gas releases were reported.

The incident that first ruptured the pipeline also forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 people in the area as hundreds of emergency responders pumped thousands of gallons of cleaning fluid into the line to stop further oil flows.

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