One Year Later, Remembering the Husky Energy Oil Refinery Explosion

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: April 25, 2019 06:07 PM

Nearly one year ago, multiple explosions from the Husky Oil Refinery shook the City of Superior. It was an unforgettable day for many in Superior.

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At around 10:06 a.m. on April 26, 2018, an explosion at the refinery, located in the city’s East End, caused the city to go into emergency mode. Huge clouds of smoke and fire took over Superior that day.

"Crews responded and I heard Engine 2 coming down. I was at the government center at the time. That's really what began our day,” Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger, said.

Refinery crews were working on shutting down the plant for repairs, which is one of the most dangerous times to be in a refinery.

Panger said the fire department had been training for the past six years with Husky on how to prepare for emergencies like the explosion and said that day really put their training skills to the test.

Thick black smoke and flames filled the refinery instantly after the explosion. Multiple authorities and agencies responded to the scary scene.

"It was intense. I had no idea. It shook my brain. I was trapped in a flame ball. I barely got out of there,” said Jesse, a blast victim. Jesse was working at Husky the day of the explosion and suffered injuries from it.

Refinery employees were evacuated from the building quickly.

"I blew an eardrum out and my ankle is pretty sprained up, but I'm alive,” Jesse said.

Fire crews had the blaze out just after 11 a.m.

"This is a tank explosion. There have been injuries, as many as 20 injuries. Six people were transported. There are no known fatalities. The most important thing to remember is the fire is out and the scene is stable,” Superior Mayor Jim Paine said, the day of the explosion.

Unfortunately, it wasn't over. A second and much larger fire erupted in the afternoon.

"The City of Superior is under an evacuation, a three mile radius from the refinery and 10 miles south of the refinery,” Paine said, the day of the explosion.

The Superior School District was evacuated and students were bused to the AMSOIL Center. There were long lines to the center for family members to pick up their children from there.

Superior residents evacuated and places like the DECC opened up as a safe space for them to stay while crews were managing the scene.

"It was a great example of how in our area, we are very fortunate because we train a lot together and we work well together,” Panger said.

Another tank in the refinery caught fire at 3:15 p.m.

Fire crews were in a "defensive" mode in fighting the fire. They weren’t able to send crews in safely. By 5 p.m. crews were able to go into 'offensive mode,' and used foam and water to put out the fire.

A secondary fire continued to burn at the plant as a result of heat from the original incidents. The fire was contained and the City of Superior finally saw an end to the scary scenario.

"To see the fire go out as soon as it did and really get Superior and the area back to business the next morning was pretty incredible,” Panger said. "I think it’s one of those events we'll remember for a long time.”

There were no fatalities as a result of the explosion. The evacuation order was lifted a day after the explosion once the refinery site was safe and the air quality was clean and back to normal.


Alejandra Palacios

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