Safety Manager Discusses Chevron's Response To Fire

The fire is out. And now the investigation begins. What sparked a crude oil feed pump to burn at Chevron's Pascagoula refinery? Friday morning, representatives from OSHA arrived at the refinery and began their investigation.

The fire ignited Thursday afternoon in the crude two processing unit. Rescue teams at the plant immediately contained the fire. But they had to wait more than six hours for it to burn itself out.

Here's what Chevron was saying about the fire 24 hours after it rattled Jackson County.

"This morning we put together an investigation team. We're just getting started in that," said Steve Renfroe. "We don't know what the cause was at this point. But we'll certainly be doing a thorough investigation. We'll get to the root cause of the incident. And we'll make any necessary adjustment based on that information."

Chevron has 120 trained volunteers who are part of the refinery's emergency response. At just after 2:00 Thursday, everything they've learned about fighting petroleum fires was put to the test.

The Chevron fire station is just a few hundred yards away from the crude two processing unit. So when that alarm sounded, it took less than five minutes for rescue teams to jump into fire trucks and dash toward a growing inferno.

Rhonda Yoder is Chevron's manager of safety, environmental and health.

"One of the things that we say here with our emergency response group is that we hope we never use that training," said Yoder.

Yet Thursday afternoon, Chevron's emergency training got put to the ultimate test.

"That was what that emergency response team needed to do was go in and isolate that situation, isolate that unit and put that fire out," she said.

Yoder monitored the fire from the incident command center at the foot of the refinery. On the day after the Chevron emergency, rescue teams were still rolling back and forth from the compound to the damaged processing unit. Their boss raved about how quickly they contained a potentially catastrophic situation.

"Of course it's a very real and a very emotional situation for people. But the training and the experience and the professionalism of everyone here was demonstrated yesterday by the fire being put out and no one being hurt," said Yoder.

Crude two is the unit that caught on fire. It sits in the middle of Chevron, just to the south of the refinery's main entrance road.

"This was a hot, long job. And these guys managed that without someone being hurt. That's remarkable," Yoder said. "I went home and I was thankful that everyone did their job today and that a situation that could have been much worse that people went home safely."

There were actually two people who needed medical attention. But neither person was near the processing unit. According to Chevron, a man jumped off the back of a security truck and hurt his knee. And one other person suffered a heat related illness while leaving the plant.