By Sylvia Gonzalez
BIG SPRING - Some scary moments Sunday afternoon when a fire broke out at the ALON USA Refinery in Big Spring. The fire started because of a leak at the bottom of the vacuum tower.
Fire Chief Craig Ferguson says they routinely train with personnel with ALON Refinery for this type of situation.
"The Big Spring Fire Department trains in conjunction with the ALON Refinery personnel and the "Red Hats" about four times a year. We try to get together, conduct drills, a lot of live fire training, table top drills on our response out there and with them," Ferguson said.
Although the fire was minor, Ferguson says they prepare for all different scenarios including fires at the refinery.
"We treat every single response as serious. We prepare for the worst and hope for the best and that's what we do every single time we go out there no matter what it is. Thankfully, last (Sunday) night, in relative terms, it was a minor fire," Ferguson said.
Blake Lewis, Community Spokesperson for Big Spring Refinery, says although the Big Spring Fire Department was at the scene, the refinery has their own emergency team called the "Red Hats," who are ready at all times.
"We have an in-refinery emergency response team that is fully trained in all aspects of health safety and the facility operations. They respond to any sort of events that may occur within the facility," Lewis said.
As you can imagine, Sunday's fire brought a lot of memories of an explosion that happened at this same refinery several years ago.
"Yes, this definitely brings up memories of the 2008 explosion. That was just as bad as it could be for this area," Ferguson said.
Lewis says the explosion did teach them a lot but he feels confident that the personnel are trained to handle each situation.
"We have a full safety program. The people that work for us are professionals, they are highly educated, they are very experienced, very confident in the workforce and the capabilities in running a safe facility. I think the track record speaks for itself," Lewis said.
Currently, the damage is being assessed and repairs are being scheduled. Everyone at the refinery was accounted for. One person was taken to Scenic Mountain Hospital where he was kept for smoke inhalation. We are told he has been released from the hospital.