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Flare flame shoots out of smokestack was alarming to residents, but a safety measure for the Marathon Oil Refinery.
Photo: St. Paul Park Police Department

Neighbors in St. Paul Park, MN, witnessed a giant flame shooting out of a smokestack at the Marathon Oil Refinery and felt there was a major incident going on with its neighbor.

But, in fact, it was a common safety procedure as the refinery was burning off excess gas on Oct. 12 to relieve pressure during a shutdown.

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What startled neighbors was they heard a recorded voice coming from the refinery telling people to evacuate as a giant flame shot out from one of the smokestacks.

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“It’s very, very scary,” said neighbor, Kelly Martony. ” I was ready to run.”

It turns out the voice was only speaking to refinery employees working near what is commonly known as a flare – a safety procedure in which excess gas is burned off.

“We had a lot of concerned residents,” said St. Paul Park Police Chief Jessica Danberg.

Danberg added the warning signal must be extra loud for workers to hear it.

“[Residents] hear it because the people in the refinery have ear plugs on [and] are working on very loud equipment,” she said.

Danberg said a real evacuation order for the community will come from police and other emergency responders – not the refinery.

“That will be the use of code red. We will post on facebook pages, door to door,” she said.

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