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Great Falls refinery fire result of prolonged cold weather

Posted at 4:33 PM, Mar 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-28 20:17:54-04

GREAT FALLS – Calumet Montana Refining reports that the refinery in Great Falls has resumed full operations after the explosion and fire March 7.

All units have now been repaired and restarted.

Calumet stated they determined the fire was the result of a period of unusually prolonged cold weather.

Witnesses recall refinery explosion: ‘It felt like there was an earthquake’

The refinery continues to implement winterization practices to ensure safe operations, according to a press release.

“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.”

“Our partnership with local emergency personnel from Great Falls Fire and Rescue, Great Falls Police Department, and the Sheriff’s office allowed a prompt and capable response.”

Calumet said they regularly practice response drills with partner agencies to prepare for fires, severe weather events, and other challenges that may impact plant operations.

No injuries or environmental impacts resulted from the fire, according to Calumet.

Emergency crews were called to the refinery along 10th Street and Smelter Avenue at around 1:15 p.m. on March 7 for reports of an explosion and fire.

The Montana Department of Transportation reported all roads within a half-mile radius of the refinery were blocked during the incident. As of 6 p.m. that day, all roads were open.

Fire and police units cleared the scene around 4 p.m.

Responding agencies included Great Falls Fire Rescue, the Great Falls Police Department, the Montana Highway Patrol, the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, and several volunteer fire departments.