WESTCHESTER (CBSLA.com) — A methane gas burn-off near Los Angeles International Airport created what appeared to be a “ball of fire” in the area.

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A large plume of smoke and flames could been seen shooting hundreds of feet into the air around noon Sunday near the 6300 block of West 84th Street, prompting fear in nearby residents.

Several residents recorded the burn-off on cell phone video and submitted it to CBS’ Street Team.

Sunday evening SoCalGas released a statement about the fireball. “An unplanned release of natural gas occurred during normal operations of injecting gas into the storage field at SoCalGas’ Playa del Rey storage facility. A relief vent properly performed its function by releasing natural gas. Upon release, the gas temporarily ignited, causing a loud noise, and for a brief time, a visible flame and smoke.”

The company’s communications manager, Javier Mendoza, added, “We apologize to our neighbors and the public for any concern this may have caused. The safety of our customers employees, and the communities we serve is a top priority for SoCalGas.”

SoCalGas says they stopped the flow of gas and the flame “within an hour. The situation posed no immediate danger to neighboring areas or the public.”

While CBS2 and KCAL9 reporter Jeff Nguyen said there was apparent scorched Earth in and around the fireball, the company insisted “damage to the facility was cosmetic and estimated at under $5000.”

Neighbors told Nguyen the inferno was at least a 100 feet tall.

Melody Rassouli and her daughter Arianna said they first heard a hissing sound around 11:50 a.m. then came a loud boom.

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They thought it was a plane crash because this area is so close to LAX.

Melody Rassouli, a Westchester resident, said “You could feel the earth move underneath you. It was sort of humming. You could feel that intensity of the burning that was happening.”

Rassouli and her daughter got in the car to flee to safety.

The family has lived in the area for nearly two decades and has never seen — or felt — anything like it. Said Ariana, “There have been burn-offs before — but not that big.”

Anthony Arango was practicing at a baseball field when he heard a rumbling noise. “It was like about two minutes and an explosion happened.”

CBS2 and KCAL9 reporter Louisa Hodge snapped a picture of the huge fireball from Malibu — more than 20 miles and still very visible.

Nguyen said crews were cleaning up the blackened payment at the facility hours after the explosion.


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