The Richfield Oil Disaster

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There were many oil field accidents in Long Beach after oil was discovered on nearby Signal Hill in 1921, but the most tragic was the June 2, 1933, Richfield Oil Company disaster. An explosion at Twenty-Seventh Street and Lime Avenue killed nine, and injured thirty-five. It was a horrible catastrophe that began with a tremendous refinery blast that was felt in cities thirty miles away; even earthquake instruments in Pasadena registered the explosion. The fire that followed reached two homes, but the heroic efforts of 500 men, armed with shovels, prevented the oil that flowed from broken storage vats from igniting and spreading the fire further into residential areas. All in all fifty dwellings were damaged and a dozen other small buildings…show more content…
Fifteen thousand spectators gathered to watch the inferno and the thousands of barrels of crude oil which flowed through Long Beach streets like a river. A storage tank failure was ruled as the cause of the explosion which was the worst accident in the history of the Signal Hill oil field.

The victims of the Richfield disaster are not buried at either Sunnyside or the Municipal Cemetery, but there are oil workers who are. Working in any oil field could lead to accidents, as sixty-six year-old Albert Loper (1850-10/27/1916) discovered on October 27, 1916. Loper was an engineer at an oil refinery in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when a boiler exploded and Loper was submerged in boiling oil. His body was brought back to Long Beach and buried at the Municipal Cemetery. He was survived by his widow Mary and sons Amos and John. George W. Simpson (1867-10/18/1909) was pulling the casing off a well in Kern County on October 19, 1909, when his fingers caught in the line. He fell and was thrown into the bull wheel where his arm was broken, his jaw fractured and his skull crushed. His body was returned to Long Beach. His wife Lillian May Simpson (1868-6/13/1914) is buried next to him at Sunnyside
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