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Mandatory evacuation orders lifted near refinery explosion

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An explosion rocked the Silver Eagle Refinery on 2355 S. 1100 West in Woods Cross around 5:30 this evening. Fire burned four workers and chased many people out of their homes as a massive gasoline tank went up in flames.

Neighbors say they knew what had happened as soon as they felt it. "I felt it shaking the house; gave us a few shakes on the windows," said Steve Wilding, who lives in the area.

They ran outside and saw flames 20 to 30 feet high over the 42,000 gallon gasoline tank at the Silver Eagle Refinery.

The explosion and fire severely burned four workers on their faces, necks, chests and arms; all had third-degree burns. Two victims were flown to the University of Utah Burn Unit; the other two arrived by ambulance. No other workers were hurt.

"We've surrounded the tank that's on fire. We're cooling it and cooling the surrounding tanks so we don't get any additional explosions or secondary issues," said South Davis Metro Fire Deputy Chief Jeff Bassett.

Within an hour, firefighters had drastically knocked down the flames. Crews from the company and the fire department decided to pump foam into the bottom of the tank to extinguish the fire.

"We're going to work on the tank that's on fire and the surrounding tanks to keep them cool so we don't get any exposures to them. That's where we're at," Bassett said.

Residents were evacuated from neighborhoods just east of the plant. They were sent to a local LDS church building, then to a Red Cross evacuation center at Woods Cross High School.

About 9:30 tonight, mandatory evacuations were lifted and residents were given the all clear and told they could go home. Voluntary evacuations, however, are still active for the area from 1500 South to 2600 South and 800 West to 1100 West in Woods Cross.

Silver Eagle has refined oil and gas at that site for more than 50 years, and this isn't the first time it has had a fire. In May of 2007, a steel pipe burst and sprayed diesel fuel into a furnace.

Company inspectors thought the problem was fixed when they rebuilt the furnace following a similar incident in January of 2005. However, because of a broken tube inside a furnace, it malfunctioned and sent flames through a smokestack. No one was hurt in either of those fires.

The cause of this explosion is still under investigation. Our news staff is still working this story through the night, and we'll have updates on conditions at the refinery on, and tomorrow morning on Eyewitness News: First Edition at 5 a.m. and on Utah's Morning News with Grant and Amanda on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM.



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Jed Boal and Paul Nelson


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