LOS ANGELES (AP) — Firefighters investigating a reported petroleum stench at a Central California beach last month didn't take long to realize a spill had taken place — oil was spreading across the sand and into the surf. Tracing the source, they found crude gushing from a bluff like a fire hose "without a nozzle," records show.

But critical time would elapse before the operator of a nearby pipeline would confirm it had ruptured and was the source of the spewing oil. An employee at the scene for Plains All American Pipeline initially suggested to firefighters that the spill "was too big to be from their pipeline," according to the documents obtained by The Associated Press.

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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