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Thick smoke intrudes Chicago suburb after oil refinery fire

Posted on by SST

A fire at the Citgo Oil Refinery in Lemont, Ill., kept firefighters up late on Oct. 23.

According to an employee, the fire caught around 7:40 p.m. from a leak of crude oil as crews worked on a valve, ABC affiliate WLS reported. The ensuing blaze spread quickly, sending thick clouds of black smoke high up in the air.

"The crude unit was immediately shut down," said Pete Colarelli, a spokesman for Citgo. But the large complex, he said, was not evacuated, Hydrocarbon Processing reported.

The company's own fire department as well as local departments responded. They managed to bring the blaze under control by around 9:45 p.m., although it was unclear what type of fire extinguisher equipment was used to temper the flames.

Because the facility was one of three producers of a special blend of low emission gasoline required by law in Chicago, the fire had a significant impact on the market, CBS Chicago reported. Gas experts said wholesale prices rose 9 cents per gallon due to the incident. Due to a decrease in wholesale prices earlier in the week, Chicago residents would have seen lower costs at the pump. But now prices will remain about the same.

Air contamination concerns
That evening, residents of the southwest Chicago suburb saw thick black smoke in the sky. Resident Joe Ebert was among those concerned about the quality of the air, ABC affiliate WLS reported.

Although the thick black clouds disappeared by morning, toxins could linger in the air. Officials at the refinery conducted air quality tests to ensure the safety of workers and residents.

According to the safety data sheet for Citgo's unleaded gasoline, inhalation of high concentrations can cause nausea, dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness, or unconsciousness. Eye and skin irritation can also result from contact with the chemical. If concentrations build in confined space, inhalation can cause heart damage, which could lead to death.

Luckily for Lemont residents, the results showed no readings of hazardous materials, CBS reported.

No injuries have been reported as a result of the incident. Nearby residents and businesses did not need to be evacuated. The crude unit, however, remains shut down. Refinery operations will be cut severely short until determinations are made about the level of damage.

Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection.

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