An explosion and fire at a Washington state oil refinery shook homes and shot flames into the night sky early Friday, killing three people and critically injuring four others.
The fire struck the Tesoro Corp. refinery in Anacortes, about 70 miles north of Seattle, at about 12:30 a.m., the company said in a statement. The blaze occurred at the naphtha unit while maintenance work was being performed and was extinguished in about 90 minutes, the company said. The naphtha unit is a step in refining crude oil into gasoline and other fuels.
Four employees are hospitalized with major burns over the majority of the bodies. Susan Gregg-Hanson, a spokeswoman for Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said they are two women, 29 and 36, and two men 34 and 41.
Nearby residents, some five miles from the complex, called Washington TV stations after midnight with reports of an explosion, saying flames were being blown by high winds.
"My house shook, big time," Lisa Wooding told KOMO-TV. "There were flames. First high, then low to the ground and broad."
Tesoro human resources manager John McDarment told The Associated Press he didn't know exactly how the fire started.
"This is a very sad time for our organization. Everyone in the Tesoro family appreciates the impact that this will have on the families involved, and we are responding quickly to ensure the safety for our employees, contractors and the neighboring community," said Bruce Smith, Tesoro's chairman, president and CEO.
Tesoro said the Washington Department of Labor and Industries had been notified.
Activity around the complex had calmed down considerably as dawn approached. Guards were turning reporters away from the gate and there was no apparent sign of the fire that had lit up the skies only hours earlier.
San Antonio-based Tesoro Corp. is an independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products. The Anacortes refinery, located about 70 miles north of Seattle on Puget Sound, can refine about 120,000 barrels of crude daily, primarily into gasoline, jet fuel and diesel to markets in Washington and Oregon, according to the company.
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