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Video: Massive fire at La. oil refinery; evacuations ordered

A fire engine. (Dreamstime/TNS)
August 25, 2023

A massive fire at a Louisiana petroleum refinery sent huge plumes of black smoke into the air on Friday, video of the scene shows. Local officials issued an evacuation order in response to the emergency.

The fire was triggered by a chemical leak at the Marathon Petroleum refinery in Garyville, officials said.

“St. John Parish has been working closely with Marathon Petroleum emergency responders as we respond together to the naphtha fire (gasoline/diesel product) at the Marathon Petroleum facility in Garyville,” St. John the Baptist Parish announced. “As a precautionary measure, St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard has issued an Emergency Declaration and is issuing a Mandatory Evacuation for all residents within a two-mile radius of the part closest to Marathon Petroleum Garyville Refinery.”

Authorities lifted the evacuation order Friday afternoon, noting the fire was “under control and has remained within the common containment-dike area of two tanks on the refinery’s property.”

It is unclear what caused the leak, Marathon Petroleum spokesman Justin Lawrence said, according to The Washington Post.

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“Initially, it was kind of a lazy flame, and we were putting foam on it to keep the fumes and the fire down to keep it contained,” Lawrence explained during a news conference. “As it picks up and this morning as the day gets hotter, it did reignite, and there’ve been spots where it is harder to control.”

“We’re doing everything possible to get the fire out,” Lawrence added.

Marathon Petroleum said in a statement that no “off-site impacts have been detected.”

According to the Post, St. John Parish is part of an 80-mile region known as “Cancer Alley” due to its chemical plants and oil refineries. Locals have reported health problems, including cancer, for decades.