Caught on camera: Fire at Louisiana oil refinery sends tower of black smoke into air

ByRaja Razek and Amy Simonson, CNN
Friday, August 25, 2023
Fire at Louisiana oil refinery sends up tower of black smoke: VIDEO
A Marathon Petroleum refinery fire in Garyville, Louisiana sent a tower of black smoke into the air.

GARYVILLE, La. -- Fire crews have contained a large fire at a refinery storage tank in Garyville, Louisiana, about 40 miles west of New Orleans, authorities said.

A mandatory evacuation order put in place Friday morning within a two-mile radius around the facility was lifted in the afternoon by St. John the Baptist Parish President Jaclyn Hotard, according to a statement from the parish.

"The fire is currently under control and has remained within the common containment-dike area of two tanks on the refinery's property," the statement said. "Both tanks have sustained damage."

The statement added an investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the incident.

Marathon Petroleum Corporation said the fire is contained to the refinery's property, and one firefighter is being evaluated for heat stress.

The "tank itself is not on fire," said Justin Lawrence, human resources manager for Marathon at a Friday news conference, adding the fire is around the perimeter of a tank.

"The product in the tank is a naphtha product, which is partially refined product that we use it as ... components to make gasoline," Lawrence said. "The tank itself is not on fire; it is the product surrounding the tank."

Lawrence reiterated, "The fire is not in the tank, it is around the perimeter where the naphtha is pooling."

"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. "As it picks up and this morning as the day gets hotter, it did reignite and there's been spots where it is harder to control."

CNN has reached out to the St. John the Baptist Parish office of emergency management, fire department, and to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality for more information.

"As always, our main priority is to ensure the safety of our employees and contractors, our neighbors within our surrounding community, first responders, and to limit environmental impact," Marathon said. "An investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the release."

The focus now is getting the "fire put out as quickly as possible," Lawrence said.

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