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American Fork refinery fire under investigation

Published April 20, 2012 4:43 pm

Investigation • Firefighters say this isn't the first time the refinery has had a fire.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A massive fire broke out in American Fork on Thursday at the Rock Canyon Oil refinery after a combustor ignited a tank filled with oil, according to a filing with the federal National Response Center.

The fire started at about 7 a.m. Thursday morning and was put out by firefighters twelve hours later. No one was injured.

American Fork Fire Chief Kriss Garcia said this isn't the first time firefighters have responded to the refinery, located just north of Utah Lake.

"We have had a fire here once before," Garcia said Friday. The previous fire happened six months ago and was much smaller, but was also due to a combustor catching fire.

Garcia said workers at the refinery noticed a small fire coming from the metal tank filled with oil, but they were able to put it out. Later they noticed a larger fire from the same tank. The sprinkler system turned on and put out that fire. However, the metal tank and the oil were already hot and the fire continued to reignite.

The fire reignited about 30 times throughout the day, Garcia said. Explosion-proof pumps were put on the tank to contain and pump out the oil and water mixture.

Some of the oil and water mix seeped into a storm drain that leads to Utah Lake, but was eventually stopped, Garcia said. Booms were put in place at Utah Lake, as a precaution, but none of the oil made it to the lake, Garcia said.

Some nearby businesses were evacuated Thursday, but were allowed to go back on Friday, he said.

A clean-up company will take care of steam-cleaning the tanks, pipes and area. Garcia said that during the firefighting, tens of thousands of dollars worth of fire equipment was contaminated by the oil and ruined.

The State Fire Marshal's office, the Utah State Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste and the Environmental Protection Agency are all currently investigating the fire.

"It is going to be a big investigation," Garcia said.

Rock Canyon Oil was founded in 2010 and is a re-refinery that reclaims used oil.

By law, U.S. companies must notify the NRC if they release hazardous material above reportable amounts.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.


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