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"There was a loss of containment on a heavy gas oil line. It was hot enough to flash and initiate fire," said Pete Stockhausen, Tesoro Refinery operations manager.
A huge plume of black smoke lingered over the area for hours and could be seen for miles.
More than 150 firefighters from the L.A. City Fire Department rushed to the refinery, joining the facility's own crew in battling the huge flames shooting out.
There were no reports of injuries or evacuations.
Firefighters were able to knock down the fire by 8:43 a.m.
A health advisory has been issued to schools in the area and the public as a precaution. Officials are advising nearby residents to keep windows and doors closed because of air quality concerns.
Fire officials are testing the air around the refinery, concerned about possible toxic emissions. Hazmat teams continue to monitor the air quality.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.
Tesoro Refinery is a 300-acre facility that refines 97,000 barrels of oil a day. According to the company Web site, it manufactures gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel and petroleum.