Crews race to contain massive California oil spill

  • Oil spill cleanup and containment effort continues on the shore near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara, Calif., on May 20, 2015.
  • Oil covers rocks on the beach near Refugio State Beach on May 20, 2015 north of Goleta, Calif. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours.
  • Volunteers carry buckets of oil from an oil slick along the coast of Refugio State Beach in Goleta, Calif., May 20, 2015.
  • William McConnaughey, 56, who drove from San Diego to help shovel oil off the beach, stands in an oil slick in bare feet along the coast of Refugio State Beach in Goleta, Calif., May 20, 2015. 
  • Clean-up workers monitor the source of an oil pipeline break near Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif., May 20, 2015. A broken onshore pipeline spewed oil down a storm drain and into the ocean for several hours Tuesday before it was shut off.
  • Local residents stand on oil covered rocks and sand at Refugio State Beach in Goleta, Calif., May 19, 2015. 
  • Workers clean up after an underwater oil pipe ruptured spilling an estimated 21 thousands gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean near Refugio State Beach, 30 miles north of Santa Barbara, Calif., on May 20, 2015.
  • A pelican covered in oil is seen along the coast of Refugio State Beach in Goleta, Calif., May 20, 2015.
  • Crews from Patriot Environmental Services collect oil-covered seaweed and sand from the shoreline at Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif., May 20, 2015.
  • Buckets of oil volunteers carried from an oil slick along the coast of Refugio State Beach are seen in Goleta, Calif., May 20, 2015.
  • An oil slick is seen along the coast of Refugio State Beach in Goleta, Calif., May 19, 2015.

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Crews rushed Wednesday to contain a growing oil spill that has befouled a nine-mile stretch of scenic California coastline just before the Memorial Day holiday.

The estimated size of the spill, about 20 miles up the coast from Santa Barbara, ballooned to 105,000 gallons Wednesday after the Coast Guard made a morning flyover to get a better sense of the scope.

An onshore oil pipeline broke Tuesday and spilled crude into a storm drain that empties into the Pacific Ocean. Plains All American, the company that owns the pipeline, said it “deeply regrets” the spill and was working to limit the damage.

“This is a disaster. It’s a worst nightmare scenario,” Janet Wolf, a Santa Barbara County second district supervisor, told reporters Wednesday morning.

“Time is of the essence,” she added. “We have fishermen who cannot go out there and fish.”

Later Wednesday evening, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County over the spill. The move frees up emergency state funding and resources to assist the cleanup.

The spill was discovered when people reported a foul smell near a state beach Tuesday afternoon. Authorities found a half-mile slick in the Pacific Ocean that later spread to four miles and then diverged into two slicks at a total of nine miles.

People who live nearby were concerned about wildlife. “We are just kind of looking at the lay of the land here, and it’s just devastating,” Josh Marsh told NBC Los Angeles.

Refugio State Beach was evacuated and will be closed through the weekend, and warnings were issued for another beach nearby. Officials could not say whether the beaches would be open in time for the holiday weekend. Campers were forced out of a nearby state park.

“We smelled something like burning rubber,” camper Ricardo Garcia told NBC News.

In 1969, an estimated 3 million gallons of oil spilled along the same stretch of coastline. That spill was the largest in American history to that point and helped give rise to the environmental movement.

A Plains All American spokesman told reporters Wednesday that the busted pipeline was inspected two weeks ago, but the company had not yet gotten the results of the review and was still unable to say why the break occurred.

This story originally appeared on NBC News

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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