By Caleb Lunetta & Rylee Holwager
Los Angeles County firefighters extinguished what was believed to be a solvent fire at the Woodward Inc. aerospace manufacturing facility in the Valencia Industrial Center on Wednesday.
The incident prompted a Fire Department hazmat response to contain runoff including liquid that continued to leak after the fire was extinguished.
The fire was first reported at 1:29 p.m. at the Woodward office on the 25200 block of Rye Canyon Road, but knockdown on the blaze was called within minutes of firefighters first arriving.
“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 who was evacuated as a result of the fire.
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 the outside of a tank system that is believed to have jet fuel inside.
According to fire dispatch traffic, the burning liquid was a solvent that continued to leak after the fire was extinguished, prompting a response from a Fire Department hazmat team.
“It’s an outdoor fire coming from the rear of the building,” said Amanda Morales, a spokeswoman for the L.A. County Fire Department.
The fire resulted in the aerospace company’s staff having to evacuate across the street from their building. In addition to Woodward employees, people from neighboring businesses came out to watch the emergency personnel response and several neighboring businesses were told to “shelter in place.” That order was lifted by mid-afternoon.
“(It’s) an exterior fire with a runoff issue with some contaminated material,” fire Capt. Greg Messineo said at the scene of the incident on Wednesday. “So, we’re trying to stop it.”
The fire captain added that, as of 2:40 p.m., hazmat officials were still testing the material to determine what exactly had caused the fire and runoff issue.
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies were called to the scene to conduct traffic control and assist with the emergency response.
No injuries had been reported as of the publication of this story, according to Morales. However, firefighters and some of those present were required to go through a medical check in case they had been exposed to a harmful contaminant.
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.
Officials from Woodward’s corporate office in Fort Collins, Colorado, had not immediately responded to The Signal’s request for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.
The fire was dubbed by emergency personnel as the “Rye Incident,” or #RyeIC.