Home / U.S. / Fire but evacuation orders continue after explosions at the superior oil refinery

Fire but evacuation orders continue after explosions at the superior oil refinery

The fires occur on Friday morning at an upper oil refinery that was rocked by explosions and consumed by fire most of the day, on Thursday. The fire caused local and county officials to declare a state of emergency and order evacuations that remained in effect at 5:45 a.m. Friday morning. Several people were sent to nearby hospitals.

While black clouds were rising from the refinery, firefighters were involved in a battle with the fires since the first burst at the Husky Energy refinery on Thursday morning. That fire was largely contained, but was reignited around noon which led Douglas County Emergency Management officials to order evacuations Thursday afternoon. They continued to expand the evacuation area as the day progressed.

Senior officials of the city finally declared a state of emergency.

At least 11 people were injured in an explosion at the refinery on Thursday morning, a serious one.

At the beginning of the afternoon, Mayor Jim Paine said that the fire at the smoked refinery had been canceled, but that the evacuation order would remain in effect. He warned that the fires could rekindle again.

A column of dark smoke rises from the refinery fire on Thursday. Bob King / Duluth News Tribune

Those concerns were noticed later when the Chief of the Superior Fire Battalion Scott Gordon said at 9 p.m. press conference that restarted a fire but was contained. He said it was not surprising to have a second secondary fire, since it is very common when there is so much heat.

"It is a relatively small fire, it is a flammable liquid that the valve can not close simply put It has been isolated, so there is a minimal risk that the fire will get bigger and go beyond that. We still have teams on stage, we have new teams here ready to replace the crews that were there all day, "Gordon said.

He said that he allowed himself to burn fire.

The authorities reiterated that the state of emergency and evacuation orders remain in place until the teams trust that they can lift that.

Manager of the Husky Energy Refinery Kollin Schade said the exact cause of the fire remains unknown. However, the superior fire chief, Steve Panger, said earlier in the day that they had received reports of a small explosion of a tank containing asphalt or crude oil. Schade said he does not discuss or confirm any previous reports.

"We have to do a full evaluation of the installation itself, that task will start tomorrow," he said.

Reports of an explosion of a tank containing asphalt or crude oil arrived on Thursday morning. Early on Thursday, Senior Fire Chief Steve Panger said there were reports of multiple victims and that at least five people were taken to a nearby hospital. However, he said there were no fatalities. There was no immediate report on the severity of the injuries.

Refinery officials say that after the fires are out, the investigation begins

Early in the evening, Schade said that public safety has been the concern of the refinery all the time.

Black liquid comes out of a tank at the refinery site on Thursday. Bob King / Duluth News Tribune

"There are risks in the refinery, not only with the asphalt, but with other components on which we must take special precautions," he said. "Certainly, we have designed engineering standards to mitigate any concerns."

Schade said they will start working with all regulatory agencies to understand what happened at the refinery.

Schade said they had water curtains that designed to protect workers and the public during such an incident.

"It has worked impeccably up to this point, so we are very happy with that," said Schade. "That's why they're designed and that's why they're specifically in place for disasters like this."

Gordon said the fire teams isolated the tank containing hydrofluoric acid and used foam to fight the fire.

Paine said that We are still concerned about air quality and any release of hydrofluoric acid.

"In case they were, we had the necessary resources to treat all the victims, there is also the risk of being in the smoke column, you are in the smoke column, there is at least some risk to health" said Paine. "We are working with (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the (US Environmental Protection Agency) to determine exactly what the health risk is, as soon as we have that statement, we will disclose it. you do not want to stay in the path of smoke, you want to get away from the smoke. "

Earlier in the day, Schade said the agencies were in place working on a plan to conduct air monitoring to ensure the air is insurance. The chairman of the Douglas County Board, Mark Liebaert, said he believed the EPA was one of those agencies.

The Associated Press reported that it would investigate a team of four people from the US Chemical Safety Board. UU The board makes safety recommendations after serious chemical incidents.

Fires provoked evacuations

While the teams were fighting fires, city and county officials took steps to evacuate city residents on Thursday afternoon.

Danielle Kaeding / WPR

at the refinery evacuated the area and the Upper School District schools were evacuated and all after school activities were canceled, according to the school district's Facebook page.

The University of Wisconsin-Superior began evacuating the campus shortly after 4 pm and planned to take the students to St. Scholastica College in Duluth for the night. The university had also canceled classes Thursday night and Friday and extracurricular activities.

"We are evacuating because there is a product tank there that if it breaks, could create a feather that could be dangerous to our health," said Douglas County Emergency Management Director Keith Kesler. "We have done some feather modeling with the wind and those things, that's what was used to develop the evacuation zone that we have in place in case the tank breaks down."

Kesler, who arrived at the scene around 10:30 am on Thursday, said the tank contains hydrofluoric acid, a strong inorganic acid used primarily for industrial purposes, but can cause serious health effects for people exposed to the chemical, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Paine said early Thursday night he believed that the greatest risk at that time was an unsafe or disorderly evacuation.

"We want to move people to Duluth, at the (Duluth Entertainment Convention Center) right now, which is our main evacuation site, as quickly and as safely as possible," Paine said, adding: "In In case of doubt, leave. "

Early in the night, Paine said the entire city of 27,000 could be evacuated. The city coordinated an answer to accommodate the residents with the Red Cross and the city of Duluth.

Gob. Scott Pater said Scott Walker was scheduled to go to Superior and state officials are waiting for any recourse he may need.

Liebaert said that the declaration of emergency was a precautionary measure.

"We are not in any danger," he said.

In a press release, Husky Energy said, "all workers have been counted."

"Husky's first priority is the safety of its people, the community and those who respond to emergencies," the statement read. "There are injuries that are being treated in the hospital and on the site, the regulatory authorities have been notified, local air quality is being controlled."

Firefighters attacked

At 6 pm, the firefighters had retired and were staying. in a defensive mode, the firemen said.

Early in the evening, Chief of the Gordon Battalion said they were not fighting aggressively because they were waiting for enough resources to shut it down completely.

"Until we've determined we can do it with positive success, we're not going to do that, we're going to stay defensive," Gordon said. "At this moment, there are teams on the ground, keeping everything cool, trying to make sure that the fire does not grow anymore, spreads to anything else."

The firemen were a few hundred meters from the fire, Gordon said. , and the water entered from the sides to cool the tanks. Gordon said they were working with the Duluth firefighters and they had called outside agencies and specialists in industrial firefighting, specifically from Texas.

Gordon said it is possible for the fire to take days to go out and that they are putting together a list of personnel and equipment of what they need to fight the fire.

The fire started on Thursday morning

Senior police chief Nick Alexander said his department initially received a report of a fire at the refinery around 10:05 am Thursday. [19659002] "Typically, fires that have the potential to be of larger scale, something that involves a refinery where there are combustible materials and so on, basically we respond to help the fire department and control access to the area, make sure we are stopping us. " people potentially enter an unsafe area, "said Alexander.

Poplar's Jeff Johnson was working at Petro Choice in Superior, which is on refinery street, Johnson described the sound of the first fire as if an object huge collided with the building.

"It was inside our warehouse. There was a big bang and at that time I do not know what happened, "Johnson said." I went down to the office, looked out, looked at Husky and saw only a lot of black smoke, and started evacuating and went to the Mariner Mall. "[19659002] People near the refinery reported having heard and felt the explosion.

Owned by the Alberta-based company Husky Energy, Wisconsin's only refinery produces gasoline, asphalt and other products.

View of smoke from the Husky Energy refinery in Superior, Wisconsin, on April 26, 2018 after a fire. Olivia Shalaby / WPR

An ambulance goes to a Husky Energy refinery after an explosion was reported in the Superior Refinery on Thursday, April 26, 2018. Danielle Kaeding / WPR

Danielle Kaeding, Andrea Anderson, John K. Wilson, Olivia Shalaby and David Hyland contributed to this report. [19659002] Editor's note: This story was originally published at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 26, 2018.


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