Evacuation Order Remains in Place Following Blast, Fire at Superior Refinery

April 26, 2018 11:26 PM

The fire at the Husky Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin was finally out Thursday night.

But an evacuation order in the area remained in place.

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

Superior police announced that the order would remain in place overnight following the explosion at the refinery Thursday morning.

But, in a tweet, the department said the order would be reevaluated throughout the night.

The fire was initially put out, but reignited after noon, and black smoke and occasional fireballs billowed up from the site for much of the afternoon.

 

Superior Fire Department Chief Steve Panger said the explosion was reportedly a small tank explosion, and the product was believed to be crude or asphalt.

DIGITAL EXTRA: Authorities Give Updates on Refinery Explosion

At least six people were taken to area hospitals. But no fatalities were reported.

"I was in my house and I felt the explosion," said Tim Stanton, who lives near the refinery. "I got up and looked out and I was like what the heck?"

Superior mayor Jim Paine announced the fire had finally been put out around 6:45 p.m. Thursday night.

"Throughout this emergency, we had a number of agencies respond with professionalism and downright courage," Paine said.

But 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 though officials labeled the fire a 2 on a scale of 10, the the valve on the tank 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 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 blast and blaze meant thousands of people spent much of Thursday out of their homes. 

DIGITAL EXTRA: Chopper 5 Flies Over Superior Refinery Fire

A public evacuation was issued for those 10 miles south of refinery, 3 miles east and west and 1 mile north of refinery. Schools in the area were evacuated as well.

The Douglas County Emergency Management Office routed evacuees to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, known as DECC. Late in the day Thursday, this served as the primary shelter for residents.

Theresa Rose and her family left their home after police officers showed up on their doorstep.

"We just got up and left really quick when the police came," Rose said. "There were some big balls of fire we saw before we left, so when they knocked it was like, yeah, it’s time to go."

Dozens of people arrived at the DECC just after 5 p.m. The Red Cross provided food and water. DECC staff said a U-Haul full of cots were on standby if need be.

Executive director of DECC Chelly Townsend said the space they prepared could hold up to 7,000 people overnight.

"We’re ready for lots of people sitting," Townsend said. "We’ll ty to make people as comfortable as we can. We have bathroom facilities. We’re ready."

Representatives from the Salvation Army brought sandwiches, snacks and bottled water later in the afternoon. Captain Teri Ellison said her team of six people planned to stay as long as they are needed.

"There’s nothing that we can say that’s going to change the facts of the situation, but we can listen and pray with them and just offer words of assurance," Ellison said.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker arrived in Superior Thursday night.

Refinery manager Kollin Schade apologized on behalf of Husky for the inconvenience the explosion and fire caused people in Superior.

The company set up a phone line people can call. That number is 1-800-686-3192.

The Environmental Protection Agency has monitors in Superior. And Paine said there is "minimal risk" to air quality.
 

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