Firefighters are at a chemical treatment facility at 3171 N. Gaffey St. in San Pedro to rescue two people from an underground tank.
Firefighters are at a chemical treatment facility at 3171 N. Gaffey St. in San Pedro to rescue two people from an underground tank. (Google Map)

Two men cleaning the inside of an underground fuel storage tank at a military facility in San Pedro were hospitalized Friday after one fell 30 feet to the bottom, firefighters said.

The man suffered bruises and other injuries and was unable to climb from the tank himself. The other waited at his side for emergency workers to arrive and was not injured, firefighters said.

Both were covered with sludge.

The men were cleaning the inside of the 130-foot-wide, 30-foot deep underground tank at the Defense Fuel Support Point San Pedro facility at 3171 N. Gaffey St. when the accident occurred about noon. The facility is operated by United Paradyne Corp.

The men, both in their 20s, were contract workers.

"It appears one of them lost his balance and fell," Los Angeles city fire Assistant Chief Ralph Terrazas said.

The man suffered injuries preventing him from leaving the tank himself, Terrazas said.

His co-worker could have climbed a ladder and gotten out through the 3-by-3-foot entry hatch, but remained at the bottom.

Terrazas said neither man was trapped.

About 75 firefighters responded, including an urban search-and-rescue team and a hazardous-materials unit. The rescuers provided the men with air and made sure the tank's fumes were safe so that the men and rescuers were not overcome.

By 2 p.m. both men were brought out, cleaned up and taken to hospitals. One man went to County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center near Torrance and the other to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Harbor City.

The facility is a fuel terminal for the energy branch of the military's Defense Logistics Agency, supplying fuel to the western region of the country.

Lt. Col. Tam Gaffney, the unit's commander, said the workers involved in the accident were among the many contractors employed on the site.

larry.altman@dailybreeze.com

kristin.agostoni@dailybreeze.com

Staff writer Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.