Ask Chris: Orange Hydrocarbon Fairy

The big flame marks the spot for oil

Q: Do you know the source of the big flame along the 101 freeway near La Conchita? It appears to be lit all the time.

A: Running from the mountains to the sea, the Rincon Oil field has been dispensing black gold for 85 years. The deposit was discovered just six months after the last Model T was built, and the pump jacks are still delivering crude down the M-143 pipeline to L.A. refineries. The flame at the tip of the smokestack, or “flare-off” in oil biz parlance, is natural gas waste matter that’s being burned off.