Wisconsin refinery explosion prompts evacuations up to 10 miles away

Witnesses said they could feel the explosion a mile away.

Smoke from an explosion at the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior, Wisconsin on April 26, 2018 is seen from across the lake in Duluth, Minnesota. (CREDIT: LARA SIGNORELLI/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke from an explosion at the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior, Wisconsin on April 26, 2018 is seen from across the lake in Duluth, Minnesota. (CREDIT: LARA SIGNORELLI/AFP/Getty Images)

An explosion at a Wisconsin refinery on Thursday has sparked a massive fire and left at least 20 with injuries, according to local press reports.

The explosion occurred just after 10 a.m. at the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior, Wisconsin. Witnesses told the Grand Forks Herald that the explosion could be felt from a mile away.

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According to the Associated Press, the explosion occurred when a tank containing crude oil or asphalt combusted on the premise of the refinery. One worker reportedly described the blast as sounding like “a sonic boom.”

Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger said that the initial fire had been put out by 11:20 a.m., a little more than an hour after the initial explosion, but a secondary fire reportedly broke out around noon.

Local police have ordered evacuations for all areas 10 miles to the south, two miles to the north and three miles to the east and west of the refinery. Some local schools have also been evacuated in what the department described as “an abundance of caution.”

So far, authorities have reported at least 20 injuries related to the blast, though no fatalities have been reported.

The Superior Police Department has described the situation as an “evolving scene.”

“Please me mindful that a this time, [sic] there are highly trained professionals executing a pre-planned action plan,” the Superior Police Department posted on Facebook on Thursday afternoon. “While we understand that this is a scary event, know that if there is a need for you to do anything — you will be specifically told to do so.”

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The explosion took place at Wisconsin’s only refinery, which produces gasoline, asphalt and other products. It was purchased last year by Calgary-based Husky Energy from Indianapolis-based Calumet Specialty Products Partners for $490 million.

Both Husky Energy and Calumet have faced safety issues in the past. In 2013, Husky Energy halted work at its operations in Canada’s Northwest Territories over a series of safety violations, including an equipment and procedural shortfall that led to a small fire at one of its oil wells.

In 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Calumet $21,000 over emergency response and flammable liquids violations at the Superior refinery.