(UPDATE: 3/28/19) Calumet Montana Refining has concluded their investigation and determined an unusually prolonged period of cold weather is what caused the fire on March 7th.
Marlena Halko, spokesperson for Calumet, hasn't release any other details regarding the cause, however, in a press release sent to KFBB, it states the refinery continues to implement winterization practices to ensure safe operations.
“Safety is our top priority every day,” said Plant Manager Wayne Leiker. “Throughout this incident and the repair work, we have continued to emphasize safety above everything else."
No injuries or environmental impacts resulted from the fire.
(UPDATE: 3/21/2019) It’s been two weeks since the explosion and fire occurred at Calumet Montana Refining in the Electric City.
Although there were no injuries involved with this incident, the cause of it is still unknown.
As of March 20th Calumet says it’s still an ongoing investigation and they’re not quite ready to share what happened.
We did ask Calumet a series of questions including if operations we’re going okay? Have there been any problems since the fire and explosion? But, the only thing they could tell us is that they’ll soon have new information and will contact us once they have the latest details.
As those updates get released, we’ll share them immediately.
“I saw the giant cloud of dark, black smoke and I kind of panicked a little bit,” explains Rachel Banach, an employee at Consumer Direct Care Network.
Several local businesses and residents might have been feeling the same way yesterday afternoon as evacuation orders and road blocks took place around the Calumet Montana Refinery.
It's human nature to ignore common sights and sounds we experience every day.
The scientific term for this is habituation.
However, according to Great Falls Fire Rescue, it's something you want to keep in check.
Especially when it comes to something that's potentially dangerous such as the Calumet Montana Refinery.
“There's still a refinery next door and everybody kind of got reminded of that yesterday and so they should have plans in place for evacuation actually,” explains Great Falls Fire Rescue Chief Hester.
The good news is that Calumet Refinery has several of their own plans in place and even has their own fire brigade to handle an incident like yesterday's fire.
Even Great Falls Fire Rescue has their own pre-plan in place for the refinery, which they consider a target area.
However, GFFR says your own plan is just as important, and no matter what the situation is, the best thing you can do is stay away.
“If something goes wrong bigger, now you're a part of our problem and now we have to take time to help you when you didn't have to be a part of that at all,” says Fire Chief Hester.
Calumet Montana Refinery says it's still too early in their damage assessment to release any details.
The good news is that nothing major was damaged, no one was hurt, and business is continuing on as usual.
If you have questions regarding a Shelter-In-Place or evacuation plan, call GFFR at (406) 727-8070 or the Dept. of Emergency Services (DES) at (406) 727-8070
Being an active investigation, we’ll continue to update you with the latest information as it comes into our newsroom.
UPDATE (8:45pm) Calumet Montana Refining has sent the following press release:
Calumet Montana Refining Operations Continue with Limited Impact
Great Falls, Montana – Calumet Montana Refining is open and operating following a fire today. The fire was isolated to a small portion of the plant and the rest of the refinery continues operation. No injuries occurred. While an investigation into the cause of the fire and damage assessment continues, the impact on plant operations and production is limited. Full staff is still reporting to work and working full shifts.
“We are grateful not only to the outstanding efforts of our employees today, but also to the great partners we have in Great Falls Fire Rescue, Black Eagle Volunteer Fire Department and the Great Falls Police Department,” said Plant Manager Wayne Leiker. “Calumet and first responders conduct regular joint safety drills and contingency planning, and the safe and effective response to this incident shows the importance of that training and cooperation. This incident had no negative impact on the safety of our employees or the community.”
The incident occurred around 2pm today and the response by the plant and local authorities was immediate. The fire was quickly contained and then extinguished. By 4pm precautionary road closures were lifted.
About Calumet Specialty Products Partners, L.P.
Calumet Specialty Products Partners, L.P. (NASDAQ: CLMT) is a master limited partnership and a leading independent producer of high-quality, specialty hydrocarbon products in North America. Calumet processes crude oil and other feedstocks into customized lubricating oils, solvents and waxes used in consumer, industrial and automotive products; produces fuel products including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Calumet is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana and operates 11 manufacturing facilities located in Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas."
UPDATE 3:50: The Great Falls Fire Department announced on their Facebook page they have been given the "all clear" and their units are standing down. GFPD also says the roads are re-opening, but drivers need to be patient as barricades are cleared and officers leave the area.
UPDATE: According to the Great Falls Police Department, "air quality experts have determined the air to be safe in the immediate vicinity of the refinery." GFPD also says the 15th Bridge is open in both directions.
UPDATE: Calumet Montana Refining has released the following statement concerning the fire:
Great Falls, Montana – March 7, 2019 – Calumet Montana Refining has confirmed an incident has occurred at their plant. At this time all plant personnel have been accounted for and there are no injuries to report. A perimeter has been established around the plant, and this includes some interruption to traffic. The cause of the incident is under investigation. Calumet’s top priority is the safety of plant staff and the community. Updates will be provided as they are available.
UPDATE 2:39: Great Falls Public Schools says the Shelters in Place for both North Middle and Sacajawea schools have been lifted. However, parents should expect school bus delays due to the refinery fire that forced 9th & 15th street Bridges to close.
UPDATE 2:15PM - Both the 15th St. and the 9th St. bridges are closed. Vaughn, Black Eagle and Great Falls Fire Rescue are on scene along with Great Falls Police Department.
UPDATE: The Great Falls Police Department says North Middle and Sacajawea schools are in Shelter in Place as a precaution. GFPD recommends anyone in the area to shelter in your home or business with the windows and doors closed.
UPDATE: The Black Eagle Volunteer Fire Department is evacuating within a half mile radius of the refinery. Please avoid the area.
UPDATE: Great Falls Fire Rescue posted on Facebook that they are responding to a reported explosion and possible fire at the refinery. They are asking for the public to avoid the area.
BREAKING: We're hearing reports from viewers of large plumes of black smoke coming from the refinery in Great Falls as well as sirens and a loud boom. We have a reporter on scene and will continue to update you as more information becomes available.