A geyser of oil sprayed onto buildings and puddled in knee-high pools of crude in Los Angeles streets after a valve on a high-pressure pipeline failed early Thursday.
About 10,000 gallons of oil spewed 20 feet high over approximately half a mile of the industrial area of Atwater Village at about 12:15 a.m., said Fire Capt. Jaime Moore.
Four commercial businesses near the border of Glendale were affected, as well as a strip club that was evacuated after oil came through air vents. The parking lot was closed and patrons and employees were forced to leave behind their crude-coated cars.
Crews were able to remotely shut off the 20-inch line after about 45 minutes.
"Inspectors went right to the failed valve. They knew right away where the problem originated," said Moore. Determining exactly what caused the failure would take some time, he said.
Four people at a medical business a half-block away were evaluated with respiratory complaints, and two people were transferred to a hospital in stable condition, Moore said.
Quick-thinking workers used sand from a nearby concrete company to build a makeshift dyke.
"They created a pool and were able to hem in much of the oil," Moore said.
By dawn, an environmental cleaning company had vacuumed up most of the mess. Crews put down absorbent material to sop up the remaining crude and then used high-pressure hoses to wash the streets with a soap solution.
Firefighters and hazardous materials crews responded, along with representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies. Several roads were shut down and were expected to remain closed for much of the day.
Officials previously said 50,000 gallons had spilled, but that number was revised downward after the vacuuming began.
Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott said there was no "visible evidence" that the oil entered storm drains, which empty into the Los Angeles River. But he said it's possible that some oil seeped under manhole covers.
The valve failed at a transfer pumping station along a pipeline that runs from Bakersfield to Texas, Moore said.
The company that runs the line, Plains All American Pipeline, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.