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Superior, Wis., Evacuation order remains in effect after refinery fire



– An evacuation ordered after more than eight hours of a massive oil refining fire burned out in this Twin Ports city will remain in force for the time being, officials said late Thursday night.

Firefighters hit at 18:40 clock down a first fire. But a second fire, which was due to "persistently high heat at the scene", started later and put out.

The evacuation order "is being reevaluated all night," the police said.

A huge cloud of oily, black smoke from burning asphalt spread for miles and hours after a series of explosions were ripped through the Husky Energy Refinery, 1

1 people hospitalized and senior officials evacuating more than 70 square miles around

Just before 7pm, Mayor Jim Paine gave Superior News to the 27,000 residents who seemed unthinkable a few hours ago. "Breathe easily," Paine said. "This fire is outside."

But about 2 ½ hours later, the Superior Police reported that the secondary fire had started.

It created a day and a night of drama, one that began shortly after 10 am with the first a series of explosions that ripped through the refinery in Lake Superior City, which shares a port with Duluth.

The fire had burned so heavily on Thursday afternoon that firefighters said they could not try to extinguish it.

We can not get people close enough to put out the fire, "said Scott Gordon, a fire chief battalion chief, Gordon said the danger to the firefighters was not only from the fire, but also from other chemicals and petroleum products

But during the afternoon, a crew of about 30 firefighters got "enough water and enough water pressure" on the fire to extinguish it for at least one time, Gordon said.

Officials still had, to determine the cause of the initial explosion.

Kollin Schade, a Husky Energy spokesman, said that the explosion in the catalytic fluidized bed happened to cracking the refinery, which is part of the refining process when crude oil is exposed to heat and pressure to extract gasoline and other light petroleum products.

The company will not speculate on the cause until after an investigation eren, added Schade.

Officials said the evacuation, which was mandatory, was a precautionary measure triggered by their desire to be as cautious as possible in responding to an emergency. "Sure is better than forbearance," Paine said, calling the explosion and the fire "a nightmare scenario."

Succession Explosions

Shortly after the first explosion, officials thought the fire was under control. But after a second series of explosions and a growing plume of smoke, the authorities began to evacuate the area for miles.

About 2 pm, Essentia Health-St. The Mary's Hospital in Superior closed, closed his emergency room and transferred all patients to Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center and Benedictine Health System, both in Duluth.

Three schools in the evacuation zone – Elementary School of the Great Lakes, High School and Northern Lights Elementary School – carried children to the Amsoil Facility parking lot in 1011 Susquehanna Av., The Upper Police Department reported

The Duluth Transit Authority distanced buses from regular routes for evacuation, and Duluth City officials opened the Duluth Entertainment Conference Center for Superior Evacuees.

In the afternoon, officials said the fire was too hot for fighting, the National Weather Service said the cloud of smoke had moved over Solon Springs, about 30 miles southeast of the refinery, and appeared as a storm cloud on radar.

The first explosion shook a nearby golf course, rattled offices in Superior's business district, and sent thick, black smoke into the sky above the refinery. Fifteen people were injured, 11 so serious that they were treated in hospitals, according to firefighters. There were no deaths.

"We had a huge boom and it came through and rattled the whole clubhouse," said Allie Fuller, deputy manager at Nemadji Golf Course about half a mile south of the refinery. She said that golfers on the course are "really scared", but nobody was hurt.

After the fire started around noon, the golf course was evacuated.

In a statement a few hours after the first explosion, the company said all workers were included and emergency teams were on-site. "Husky's first priority is the safety of its people, the community and the emergency services," the company said.

"A Big Boom"

said Taylor Pedersen, president and CEO of the Douglas County Superior Chamber of Commerce, heard the first explosion from his office, near the University of Wisconsin Superior, about a mile from the refinery ,

"There was a big boom," he said. "We're just trying to figure out exactly what happened, and of course, to let everyone join in our prayers."

A four-man team from the US Chemical Safety Board was sent to the Superior Explosives on Thursday afternoon. The panel gives safety recommendations after serious chemical incidents.

About 180 people work at the refinery, which was closed for cleaning at the time of the first explosion. A spokeswoman for Paine said some of the injured could be employees of the cleaning company.

The refinery built in 1950 was owned for decades by Murphy Oil, who bought it in 1958. Murphy sold it to Calumet Specialty Products for $ 435 million in 2011, and Calumet sold it to Husky in Calgary last year for $ 492 million.

In 2015, when Calumet owned the refinery, OSHA gave four quotes to the refinery, three of them for serious infringements. They included flammable and combustible liquids as well as hazardous waste and emergency measures. Calumet was fined $ 21,000, but negotiated an agreement for $ 16,800.

The refinery is small and produces about 38,000 barrels a day. That's about 10 percent of the major Flint Hills refinery in Rosemount and less than 40 percent of production at the Andeawor refinery in St. Paul Park.

The Superior refinery mainly produces gasoline, diesel fuel, engine oils and asphalt for local markets, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Associate Writer Mike Hughlett contributed to this report.

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