Status of Oil Fields Following Thomas Fire in Ventura County - Update 2

Update 2 - Status of Oil Fields Following Thomas Fire in Ventura County

TONIGHT, Thurs. Dec 14, 5:00 pm UPPER OJAI TOWN HALL with Fire Command Reps at SUMMIT SCHOOL. 

providing information on the situation in Upper Ojai. 


First, all at CFROG would like to express our condolences to the family, friends and fellow fire fighters of the fire fighter who has perished fighting this fire in the Fillmore area. 

This update includes the following:

  1. Fire & Oil Field Map
  2. Pipeline Update from State Fire Marshall
  3. Reports of Burning Seeps/Noxious odors/smoke, need for P100 masks *with vapor cartridge in those areas.

1. Fire perimeter & Oil Fields


Here is a map prepared by CFROG Advisor Vickie Peters GIS showing (Dec. 12) the fire perimeter and the location of oil fields. All data is official state GIS sourced. Here is our first UPDATE (Dec. 12), which includes information from the California Department of Conservation (state oil and gas regulator) regarding what is happening in the oil fields after a fire incident. 

Pipeline Update from State Fire Marshall/CalFire

CalFire is the office of the State Fire Marshall. The State Fire Marshall oversees intrastate (within the state) hazardous liquid pipelines, this includes petroleum pipelines that are carrying product to be refined, but it does not include the smaller “gathering” pipelines within oil fields that move oil and other fluids from wells to tanks etc. The State Fire Marshall oversees pipelines such as the ones involved in the recent Hall Canyon leak/spill (Ventura) and Refugio leak/spill (Santa Barbara). 

Pipeline update from State Fire Marshall who oversees the major petroleum pipelines (not gas pipelines) – CFROG contacted Assembly member Monique Limón’s office after no response directly from the State Fire Marshall and this report was forwarded to us from her office: 


 1. Does CAL FIRE have any rules governing oil pipeline operators during and incident like this?

Pipeline operators are required to have and follow procedures for abnormal and emergency conditions per Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 195 (see below):

49 CFR 195.402 (e)

(e) Emergencies. The manual required by paragraph (a) of this section must include procedures for the following to provide safety when an emergency condition occurs:

(1) Receiving, identifying, and classifying notices of events which need immediate response by the operator or notice to fire, police, or other appropriate public officials and communicating this information to appropriate operator personnel for corrective action.

(2) Prompt and effective response to a notice of each type emergency, including fire or explosion occurring near or directly involving a pipeline facility, accidental release of hazardous liquid or carbon dioxide from a pipeline facility, operational failure causing a hazardous condition, and natural disaster affecting pipeline facilities.

(3) Having personnel, equipment, instruments, tools, and material available as needed at the scene of an emergency.

(4) Taking necessary action, such as emergency shutdown or pressure reduction, to minimize the volume of hazardous liquid or carbon dioxide that is released from any section of a pipeline system in the event of a failure.

2. Are pipeline operators required to stop the line during the fire event, or it is up to them to make that decision?

It is up to them to make that decision. Depending on the situation and according to their emergency response procedures, they will take the appropriate measures to ensure safety. They are required to check for variations from normal operation after an abnormal operation has ended at sufficient critical locations in the system to determine continued integrity and safe operation per 49 CFR 195.402.

3. Does CAL FIRE require anything of pipeline operators before they start lines back up again?

There are no regulatory requirements, but during significant natural disasters, CAL FIRE’s pipelines safety division will contact the operator, verify the status of their line, ask the operator how they will monitor the start-up process on the ground at critical locations, and verify the operator contacts the local fire department of their intent to restart the line.

Report of burning natural oil seeps, air impacts & need for "P" rated respirator masks.

**Update: Dec. 15 1:40pm - CFROG has been in communication with the APCD and we are reviewing all available information. The APCD is going to be revising its advisory regarding the areas where natural oil seeps are actively burning - Standard P100 masks provide protection against particulate matter, that may contain oil, only, not against vapors/smoke. A "vapor cartridge" with the P100 mask is required for vapor protection in addition to particulate matter protection. Here is information on the CDC website regarding this distinction. * the page discusses burning crude oil, the issue right now that we have confirmed is burning natural seeps - not exactly the same as "crude" but the information is as close as possible. 

**Update (5:00pm Dec. 14) CFROG successfully advocated for the VC Air Pollution Control District to issue a special advisory for people in the Upper Ojai area due to burning seeps. HERE is the info on the website.  Photo below by Upper Ojai resident Dura Williams from Sulphur Mountain road (near the bottom before going up hill) looking west. Burning oil seep on nearby mountain.


CFROG has received reports, seen videos and our Executive Director has personally witnessed (Dec. 13) actively burning oil seeps in the Upper Ojai area. This area has many active seeps where thick oil comes to the surface. It is likely that any location where seeps are active at the surface will be burning after a fire moves through the area.  Burning oil cannot be put out with water, a foam application is required.  

Here is a video of burning seeps visible from Highway 150 in Upper Ojai: 

A secondary issue to the seep fires is the smoke/fumes the burning oil emits. Oil particulate matter is different than burned vegetation and requires additional protection for people in the area. A respirator/mask with the letter “P” provides protection from oil particulate matter. P100 is the highest protection.

Here is information at the CDC regarding the different types of protection from oil particulate matter.

If you believe oil is burning in your area (including petrochemicals/pesticides) and the smoke may contain oil particulate matter this type of “P” mask is recommended. CFROG has contacted local authorities asking for more information to be released to impacted communities regarding this information. We are also seeking donations of P100 masks from manufacturers to distribute in effected communities. Stay tuned.

Dec. 14 – CFROG contacted Supervisor Steve Bennett’s office for information about whether they were aware of this issue and next steps. They had the information and understood that the fire incident command had this issue on their list, but indicated that with active fires still expanding and threatening communities the burning seeps were not at the top of the list, but that efforts to find a solution were underway.