An asphalt spill at the Husky Energy Oil Refinery in Superior is blamed for the explosion and fire that occurred that injured 11 employees shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday, according to Superior Mayor Jim Paine. There were no fatalities.
A spokesman for Essentia Health said they received 10 patients — five at their Duluth facility and five at Superior. None have non-life threatening injuries, but one has a serious blast injury.
A St. Luke’s hospital spokesperson said they have one injured patient from the explosion whose condition is listed as fair.
Neighbors to the plant and others as far away as Solon Springs reported hearing what sounded like a sonic boom at 10:06 a.m.
Second explosion and evacuation
The fire appeared to be decreasing until it reignited at about 12:30 p.m. when more than a dozen explosions were heard over the next hour.
Thick dark smoke rose into the sky from the burning petroleum products. Duluth meteorologists said the smoke rose to about 6,000 feet, where10-15 mph northwest winds carried it south for many miles. Environmental groups monitored air quality.
Due to the heavy smoke and potentially toxic emissions, at 1:10 p.m. the Superior Police Department ordered all south Superior residents to evacuate from the area up to 10 miles south of the refinery. The evacuation also included residents living up to three miles north, south and west of the refinery. Superior Police officers went door-to-door in the evacuation area to be certain everyone was able to leave.
By 2 p.m. the Superior School District expanded school closure to include all public schools in the city. Parents of students at schools in the first evacuation area were instructed to meet their students at the Amsoil plant on Susquehanna Avenue while students from other schools were bused directly home.
Firefighting plan formulated
At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Superior Fire Department spokesman Scott Gordon said crews were in a defensive mode, observing the petroleum product-based fire but not fighting it.
Superior Mayor Paine said no more firefighters are being sent into the plant. While the fire was allowed to burn, the city is preparing a plan for offensive operations. Paine added there is no time frame on when to put the fire out.
The refinery employs 180 and was shutting down Thursday for routine maintenance when the explosion occurred. Refinery specialists from other parts of the country reportedly were at the site assisting with the shutdown process.
Overnight shelter at DECC
When the evacuation order was first given in early afternoon Four Corners School opened its doors Thursday afternoon to people seeking shelter as well as the Yellowjacket Union at UW-Superior.
Later Thursday afternoon, the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center announced DECC will be open to Superior residents who need overnight accommodation. Use Door D in the Ticket Lobby. Parking is free. The Red Cross is providing basic food and sleeping accommodations.
**UPDATE** 2:20 p.m. All Superior Public Schools Closed and Students Evacuated "All students have been evacuated and are either at Amsoil or on a bus. Four Corners students are at Four Corners. There is a large amount of traffic at Amsoil."
**UPDATE** Police Chief says fire could burn "for a couple of days." Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander said at 1:22 p.m. "The City of Superior is evacuating the area 10 miles south of the Husky Oil Refinery. That is pretty much all of south Superior and some areas to the east. Plus three miles to the north, east and west of the refinery should also evacuate.
2:15PM Radar image of smoke plume - now reaching to southern edge of Douglas county. This is tracking smoke aloft. Smoke plume may drift a bit to the west this evening. pic.twitter.com/PCFrzg4Es3— NWS Duluth (@NWSduluth) April 26, 2018
"We are currently evacuating students from the schools in that perimeter. It is extremely important for families and parents to know their kids are going to be bused to the Amsoil Center on Susquehanna Avenue, in the back rear parking lots. Amsoil has emergency operations people there to help reunite families with their children.
"There is no immediate health risk but we want to err on the side of caution and get people out of the areas that could potentially be affected by this fire and the smoke that it is generating.
"I am not a firefighter, but I am told it is likely the fire will burn until the fuel is consumed, and that could be a couple of days."
EVACUATION NOTICE UPDATE - 3 MILES IN ALL DIRECTIONS FROM FIRE *AND* 10 MILES SOUTH. See graphic for shelter info. pic.twitter.com/BbRdJUDaEl— NWS Duluth (@NWSduluth) April 26, 2018
**UPDATE** Students from the schools that are closing are being transported to the Amsoil location for pickup by parents at the back parking lot on Susquehanna Ave.
**UPDATE** 1:15 p.m. Some schools are closing. Students are being moved to evacuation points.
**UPDATE** 1:11 p.m. Residents within 10 miles to the south of the Husky Oil Refinery and three miles to the north, east and west are being asked to immediately evacuate the area based on heavy smoke.
Reports have been updated to 15 injuries, with 10 treated at hospitals, five each at hospitals in Duluth and Superior. One person is confirmed hospitalized at St. Marys Hospital with blast injuries. Some others have been treated and released.
**UPDATE** 1:05p - (Douglas County Sheriff's Office): At the recommendation of the oil refinery management, they are requesting a public evacuation 10 miles south of the refinery and 1 mile north, east and west. 10 miles south would be roughly to the Neumann Rd., just north of Four Corners. We will be updating this shortly. It is because of the heavy smoke.
Law enforcement and firefighters are responding to a report of a fire at a refinery in Superior with multiple casualties being reported
#BREAKING Just after 10am today Superior Fire Department responded to a report of an explosion at Husky Refinery in Superior. There is a report of multiple casualties. Initial reports say there are at least 20 casualties transported. Multiple agencies have responded. @KQDS_FOX21 pic.twitter.com/kFcAG2C0m6— Natalie Froistad (@nataliefroistad) April 26, 2018
Press Release from the Superior Fire Department:
At approximately 10:06 today Superior Fire Department responded to a report of an explosion at Husky Refinery in Superior. There is a report of multiple casualties. Initial reports are at least 6 transported – No report on severity of injuries. Multiple agencies have responded.
BREAKING: Superior Fire Department and Douglas County officials are responding to a situation at Husky Refinery in the city's East End. https://t.co/Q9sEHLmS79— Eyewitness News (@wdiowirt) April 26, 2018