Massive Fire, Explosions at Southwest Philadelphia Refinery; Roads Closed

on Jun21
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2019-06-21 06:56:43

A massive fire and series of explosions rocked a South Philadelphia refinery complex, the largest on the East Coast, early Friday morning jolting people from their sleep and prompting a shelter-in-place.

Homes as far away as South Jersey were rocked by a series of explosions as the blaze, which erupted shortly after 4 a.m., burned. Some residents in Philadelphia said the explosions knocked art off their walls.

“We’ve just had an explosion with heavy fire, [the commander] is requesting a third alarm for this location,” a fire official relayed to dispatchers shortly after the largest blast.

One resident who lives next to the complex said, “I thought it was a meteor or something” after seeing the mushroom cloud rising from the facility.

The fire is contained on the property off Passyunk Avenue of the refinery, fire officials said shortly before 6 a.m. The blaze is still not under control. A refinery spokesperson said they are still working to account for staff members.

City emergency management sounded early warning sirens at 5:30 a.m. and issued a shelter-in-place for the following area:

  • 26th Street to the west
  • Schulykill Expressway to the north
  • I-95 to the south
  • 22nd Street to the east

Though the area is heavily populated, no evacuations have been issued.

Watch the Moment a Refinery Blast Rocked PhillyWatch the Moment a Refinery Blast Rocked Philly

Roads in the area of the fire have been closed to allow first responders space to work and protect drivers. The Platt Bridge and portions of Interstate 76 were closed temporarily as fire crews worked to contain the blaze.

One person said on Twitter that they were on I-95 when the explosion happened. “Could feel the heat right through the car,” the person tweeted. 

The fire could be seen for miles. Some neighbors in South Philadelphia said debris rained from the sky into their neighborhoods after the explosions.

The complex is the largest refinery on the East Coast and employs about 1,000 people. Many Philadelphians still call it the Sunoco refinery, though it is now owned by Philadelphia Energy Solutions, a partnership that includes Sunoco.

The refinery processes 335,000 barrels of crude oil every day at two plants in the complex — Girard Point and Point Breeze. The fire broke out at the Girard Point portion. Natural gas is also processed at the facility.

The refinery dates back to the 19th Century opening a year after the Civil War ended. “The PES Philadelphia Refining Complex has been “part of the neighborhood” in South Philadelphia for over 150 years and is closely tied to the growth of the American oil industry in the 19th century,” PES says on its website.

NBC10 is live at the scene. Stay with us for complete coverage.

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