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Superior Refinery Fire is Out; Evacuation Lifted

Updated: April 27, 2018 11:01 AM

Superior Mayor Jim Paine says the evacuation order was lifted as of t 6 a.m. on Friday.

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He said on his Facebook page that all indications were that the refinery site is safe and stable and the air quality is clean and normal.

What started as an explosion and fire at the Husky Refinery turned into an even bigger situation throughout Thursday.

The Superior Fire Department says there were no fatalities in the explosion. There were 15 injuries reported, including 11 hospitalizations. Firefighters and city officials remained on the scene all afternoon as multiple explosions occurred. 

A media spokeswoman from Essentia-St. Mary's told Eyewitness News 10 people were treated at the Duluth hospital. One person is being treated for "serious blast injuries." Some had been treated at Essentia-St. Mary's in Superior, but that facility was evacuated as a precaution. There was one patient in fair condition at St. Luke's.

The explosion happened at about 10:06 a.m. at the refinery, which is in the city's East End. Workers evacuated and met in their designated emergency spots. They had concern for those who had been hurt. 

The nature of the casualties was not immediately disclosed. A contractor who was inside the building told Eyewitness News it sounded like "a sonic boom." He said crews were working on shutting the plant down for repairs. According to the contractor, that is one of the most dangerous times.

No details were immediately available on what caused the initial explosion. An official with Husky said the work to determine the cause will begin immediately. Fire officials reported that they had the blaze out just after 11 am. Then, a second, larger fire erupted just after noon. And then, Douglas County authorities said another tank caught fire at 3:15 p.m.

At a press conference, Superior Fire Battalion Chief Scott Gordon said crews were in a "defensive" mode in fighting the fire, and couldn't send crews in safely.

By 5 pm, Gordon said they were able to go into 'offensive mode,' and used foam and water to put out the fire. The crews were switched out Thursday evening, to relieve those who'd been on scene all day.

Plus, a secondary fire continued to burn at the plant for awhile. Gordon said they expected this to happen, because of all the heat generated from the original incidents. He explained that the fire is contained. "We are going to let it burn, because the liquid that is on fire is coming out of a valve that cannot be shut off," Gordon said.

Husky Energy says local air quality is being monitored.

Superior Mayor Jim Paine says the city of Superior was in a state of Emergency Thursday. He praised those who've helped coordinate the response."Through this emergency, agencies responded with the highest degree of professionalism, and downright courage. We got through this without a single fatality. And our community responded by helping each other and looking out for one another."

Husky purchased the refinery last year from Calumet.  Refinery manager Kollin Schade confirmed that there are 181 employees who work there. But there have been hundreds of others called in to work on the shutdown and maintenance projects.. 
He said that the reason for the evacuation was the risk of the hydrofluoric acid affecting people. But Gordon said that crews were able to isolate that material, and it did not catch on fire.

Douglas County authorities have an information line available for people to call with questions (715) 395-1231

The company says that anyone impacted by the explosion can obtain information by calling the Husky Superior Assistance line at 1-800-686-3192. 

This is a Breaking News Story, we will be updating this story.

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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