Thousands of employees exited various downtown office buildings, including Long Beach City Hall, Catalina Landing and the surrounding offices, and the tower that hosts the Long Beach Post, after a natural gas odor spread throughout the area Wednesday afternoon. According to the Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD), 29 complaints were made.
LBFD officials said such incidents have occurred previously, without a concrete origin, and represent minimal risk. In fact, the last such incident on Post records appears to have occurred in 2014, when a gas-like smell around 1st and Gaviota prompted over 40 emergency complaints to Long Beach Gas & Oil. At the time, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) said the smell was not due to a natural gas leak. The origin of the smell was never pinpointed.
“There is no indication of any actual release of natural gas and no specific source has been located,” said Heflin of Wednesday's evacuations. “All indications are this is a passing area odor. Fire units that have responded to the dozens of calls for this odor have NOT reported finding any indication of a flammable gas detectable by their monitors.”
Emails and phone calls requesting information from various city officials and hospitals were left unanswered at the time of publication.
As of 2:00PM Wednesday afternoon, Heflin said the downtown battalion chief reported the odor had passed the area near fire station 1 and the police department.
An email to the tenants of 444 West Ocean Boulevard described the gas as the product of "off gassing," which is described by the Marathon Petroleum Corporation as a mixture of "methane, ethane, ethylene, propane, propylene, and butane."
There is no indication of any actual release of natural gas & no specific source has been located. This appears to be a passing area odor.— Long Beach Fire (@lbfd) December 28, 2016
This report was updated on Wednesday, December 28 at 6:54PM with additional information from previous Post stories.