An explosion and fire injured one worker and shut down Syncrude’s Mildred Lake oilsands upgrader north of Fort McMurray, Canada, Tuesday.
One person ended up transported from the plant to the city’s Northern Lights Regional Health Centre in serious but stable condition, said an Alberta Health Services official.
Syncrude issued a statement saying the company’s emergency services and operations workers had isolated and controlled the fire.
“All non-essential employees and contractors have been removed from the immediate area to allow response crews to manage the situation,” the company said. “The appropriate regulators have been notified.”
Wood Buffalo RCMP and other emergency services were on the scene, and Alberta Energy Regulator investigators were on site.
Police said they were unable to confirm the cause of the explosion.
Syncrude spokesperson Will Gibson said the fire started just before 2 p.m.
Just before 4 p.m., Gibson said he could no longer see smoke, but he could not confirm the fire was out.
“From my vantage point on site, everything appears normal,” he said. “There’s nothing amiss. But I’m not in a position or vantage point to say the fire is contained or extinguished.”
A subcontractor who was working at the plant on Tuesday said he had left the affected area about five minutes before the fire started.
The worker, who asked to remain anonymous because he was worried about his job, said he heard distress calls over the radio.
“Then all of a sudden, buddy just started screaming, ‘It’s too late. Hit the horn, it’s on fire,'” the man said.
Then the evacuation alarm sounded, he said.
“There was just a bunch of black smoke. And then everyone evacuated and there was a lot of pops. And the ground was shaking.”
Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) officers were not on scene as of 5 p.m.
“OHS is aware of the fire but our officers are not on the site right now because it is still an active fire,” said Trent Bancarz, a spokesperson for Alberta Labour. “It’s the first responder people who are there right now.”
RCMP said they had shut down one southbound lane of traffic on Highway 63, the main road that connects the oilsands site with Fort McMurray.
Police said they assisted with the evacuation of non-essential services from the site.
Alberta emergency services issued a health advisory Tuesday for residents in the Fort McKay area, about 60 kilometers north of Fort McMurray, saying their small community was in the path of smoke from the Syncrude fire.
Officials advised residents to stay indoors and keep outdoor activity to a minimum, to keep doors and windows closed and use air purifiers if possible.