Superior Mayor: Refinery Fire Out, Evacuation Order Remains in Place Overnight

April 26, 2018 10:51 PM

The fire at a Superior, Wisconsin refinery is out.

However, an evacuation order was scheduled to remain in place overnight, according to a tweet from Superior police. An earlier tweet had stated it would be lifted Thursday night.


Police said it would be reevaluated throughout the night.

And while the big fire that burned all day may be out, a secondary fire was burning Thursday night, officials said.

It's liquid coming from a nearby tank. And the valve was damaged during the initial explosion, so it can't be shut off.

It needs to burn itself out, which is why smoke was again coming from the refinery Thursday night.

Which is why the City of Duluth and St. Louis County issued a shelter-in-place order for the western portion of the city Thursday night as a precautionary measure, applying to the Fond du lac neighborhood east to the Ore Docks and the top of the hill.

A release said the National Weather Service expected winds to shift over the next few hours which could result in residual smoke plumes entering the area. Residents with health concerns were advised to close windows and doors and remain indoors overnight.

The fire followed an explosion at the Husky Refinery Thursday morning.

Superior Mayor Jim Paine first announced the blaze had been extinguished during a press conference around 6:45 p.m. Thursday.

The Superior Fire Department and other agencies responded to the blast. But while the fire was initially put out, it reignited after noon and authorities put a mandatory evacuation in place. 

Because of the fire, Douglas County declared a state of emergency. The City of Superior also declared a state of emergency. 

Due to heavy smoke in the area, a public evacuation was issued for those 10 miles south of refinery, 3 miles east and west and 1 mile north of refinery.

Area schools were evacuated as well.

Paine had said the evacuation could spread to the whole city, which has a population of 27,000 people. He said an additional 10,000 to 15,000 people in rural areas could be evacuated.

Due to the evacuations, a number of Duluth hotels have offered a discounted rate. 

"When in doubt, get out," Paine said.

As a precaution, Essentia hospital in Superior was evacuated and patients transferred to Duluth.

At an afternoon press conference, authorities said the black smoke that rose from the scene was from asphalt that spilled in the initial incident. 

One official described it "like a tire on fire in your backyard." 

Health officials were monitoring air quality levels for safety.

Paine said, "The only thing that I'm worried about for our citizens is the process of evacuation. If people stay calm and move to a safe place as quickly as possible, that will eliminate injuries."

At least six people were taken to the hospital.  

There were no fatalities reported. 

Gov. Scott Walker visited Superior Thursday evening and praised the response to the explosion. 

"To see the kind of response, as much as you don't want to have this in any community, to me, any time you don't have a fatality after an explosion, that in itself is a remarkable success story," Walker said. 

The initial call came in at 10:06 a.m., according to Superior Fire Department Chief Steve Panger.

Roads were blocked off around the refinery, and employees were evacuated.

Husky purchased the refinery from Calumet last year.

The Duluth News Tribune reported at that time that the refinery, which is the only one in Wisconsin, had about 180 employees.

Panger did not know the severity of injuries reported. 

Panger added the explosion was reportedly a small tank explosion, and the product is believed to be crude or asphalt.

Husky issued the following statement: 

Husky Energy is responding to a fire at its Superior Refinery located in Superior, Wisconsin.

Emergency crews are on site and all workers have been accounted for. Husky’s first priority is the safety of its people, the community and emergency responders. There are injuries, which are being treated at hospital and on site.

Regulatory authorities have been notified. Local air quality is being monitored. There is no danger to the public or local residents at this time.


This is a breaking news story. KSTP is working to get more details on this story and will post updates as more information becomes available.

Stay with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and as we follow this story. Refresh your page to make sure you are seeing the most current information.


Theresa Malloy

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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