Woodward Inc. officials have provided further insight into the cause of an outdoor fire that broke out earlier in the week at their Valencia campus, resulting in employees having to evacuate and L.A. County Fire Department hazmat teams being called.
In a statement emailed to The Signal, Traci Gohari, director of business communications for Woodward Inc., clarified that the substance that caught fire and caused first responders to initially worry about surface run-off was a “type of calibration fluid.”
“We believe it was a type of calibration fluid, a common product used in our testing processes,” said Gohari. “We are certain no Woodward members required any medical checks.”
The fire, which was given the moniker #RyeIC, was first reported at 1:29 p.m. at the Woodward office on the 25200 block of Rye Canyon Road, and original reports indicated that the material burning, causing smoke to plume as firefighters remained en route, was “high-temperature” jet fuel.
However, units on the scene later clarified that the source was not jet fuel itself, but rather was believed to be a type of solvent ignited during an equipment malfunction.
“It was not jet fuel,” said Fire Department Inspector Craig Little, “it was some type of solvent.”
Gohari said that, while Woodward staff were evacuating, the company’s safety team and L.A. County Fire Department were able to focus on the incident and contain the fire. Officials then declared a knockdown on the blaze within minutes of their arrival.
The fire “was in the rear of our production area and the Fire Department was able to quickly understand the situation and knocked it down quickly,” Gohari said. “The safety of our members is our No. 1 priority, and thankfully, everyone swiftly evacuated the building and followed our safety protocols.”
Over the course of the next eight hours, first responders worked to not only contain the runoff of the substance from entering storm drains, but also conduct medical exams for those who could have been possibly exposed to a dangerous contaminant. No medical transports or injuries were ultimately reported.
“It’s a standard precautionary thing,” said Little, in reference to hazmat working into the night at the scene and receiving medical checkups before leaving. “Even if it was rubbing alcohol, they’d take the same precautions anyway.”
During the cleanup effort, many members of the aerospace company’s staff stood across the street from their building. Several neighboring businesses were told to “shelter in place,” but that order was lifted by mid-afternoon.
“We were told there was a fire and it was in a test area where they use hot fuel, and that’s all I know about it,” said Jon Leavelle, a Woodward employee at the time of the incident and who had been evacuated as a result of the fire.
L.A. County Fire Department officials were cleared from the scene at approximately 9 p.m., Little said.
Woodward is an aerospace contractor that manufactures motion control systems for a wide variety of aircraft. Now owned by Colorado-based Woodward, the Valencia facility was founded as Hydraulic Research in Burbank before moving to the Valencia Industrial Center in the 1960s. Its name was later changed to HR Textron, incorporating the name of its then-parent company.
After it was acquired by Woodward from Textron in 2009, the facility was initially known as Woodward HRT.
Woodward is listed by the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp. as the SCV’s 11th largest private employer, with 721 employees. In the early 1980s, HR Textron employed as many as 1,300 and at the time was the SCV’s largest employer.