City leaders nervous as St. Paul Park petroleum refinery changes firefighting system

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Marathon Petroleum confirmed to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the company is switching from a full-time firefighting staff to an employee-trained, on-call system.

St. Paul Park's Police Chief Jessica Danberg said she has serious worries about Marathon's plans to change their firefighting approach. She said the fire chief shares the same concerns. 

"If Marathon's on-call system cannot respond quick enough, it puts our volunteer firefighters in a tough spot," Danberg said. "They do not have the specialized training that refinery fire crews have, and that is a serious concern."

Danberg said Marathon has an "excellent safety history" at the refinery, but she thinks this type of change is something that needs to be talked about in detail between Marathon, city leaders and first responders.

"It could put our police and firefighters in a bad situation if things are not understood and laid out," Danberg said. "We have legitimate questions about how this would work."

More from KSTP: 

Refinery in St. Paul Park announces evacuation, not a threat to the public

Refinery evacuation in St. Paul Park 'common safety procedure'

St. Paul Park City Council Member Keith Franke said he has concerns about the city's ability to fight any refinery from a water capacity standpoint.

"In addition to the firefighting concerns at the refinery, we have 3M groundwater pollution that has left us with only one working well right now," Franke said. "I have lost sleep a couple nights over this because I do not know if we have the water capacity to fight a sustained refinery fire right now."

Marathon Petroleum issued the following statement: 

"To be clear, the change is from a contractor force to trained and qualified refinery employees who will constitute a paid, on-call emergency response team with more specialist responders available within the fenceline than before. This team will continue to work with our full-time Fire Chief, Fire Mechanic and EMT firefighter. This is a best-in-class model that is used across Marathon Petroleum refineries and adheres to NFPA and API standards.

"Secondly, Marathon Petroleum will continue to honor all mutual aid agreements with state and county agencies, and offer training sessions within the refinery to community first responders.  

"Third, in 2020 alone, the St. Paul Park refinery is investing more than $3 million in emergency response equipment, as we continue to implement world-class technologies to ensure the safety of our community. This is in addition to investments of nearly $50 million since 2013 in our safety and emergency response infrastructure."