South Gate, CA Firestone Tire & Rubber Plant Fire, Dec 1957


Mountains of Tires Burn; Blaze May Continue Until Noon

A pigment shed at the main Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. plant in South Gate burst into flames early today, spreading through two mountains of used tires and creating a blaze which firemen said would not be out before noon today.

A company spokesman estimated damages would be between $750,000 and $1,000,000.

Great clouds of black smoke filled the air, accompanied by flying sparks and a dense fall-out of soot.

The raging flames were visible for several miles.

The pigment shed a quonset hut-type corrugated metal building, melted under the heat of flames led by the storage inside of chemicals, lamp black, sulphur and pigments used in making bulk rubber out of the used tires.

Fire Engulf's Building

The fire which engulfed the building in a dull booming explosion of flames, quickly spread to the thousands of tires piled outside. Also burned were piles of ground-up rubber which had been stripped from used casings.

Men from four engine companies of the South Gate Fire Department, under Chief G. E. Peterson and seven County Fire Department companies commanded by Asst. Chief Harvey Crutchfield fought to keep the fire from spreading to two more mountainous piles of tires nearby.

These two piles each contained more than 100,000 used tires.

The flames covered a square block in area.

Within 30 minutes, firemen had contained the blaze. Their main concern was to keep it from spreading to the other storage piles of tires and to several oil storage tanks only 150 feet away.

None of the other factory buildings was endangered, because they are a considerable distance from the fire area.

To Last Until Noon

Chief Peterson estimated that the fire would still be burning through noon today.

A plant guard said he had made his rounds past the pigment shed shortly after midnight and had noticed an evidence of fire. But as he rounded a corner he heard a low muffled explosion as flames rushed through the building fed by the highly inflammable contents.

As firemen, completely surrounding the blaze, poured on thousands of gallons of water, eager spectators watched from atop a row of boxcars on a siding at the north edge of the plant property.

Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA 26 Dec 1957