The Port Arthur News
Twelve contract workers have been transported to Baptist and St. Elizabeth Hospitals after a flash fire Wednesday at ExxonMobil, 1795 Burt Street, Beaumont.
The fire started around 10:30 a.m. within a processing unit that was down for maintenance, according to ExxonMobil public affairs manager Kathleen Jackson.
The fire was quickly extinguished by ExxonMobil’s fire department before the refinery called the Beaumont Fire Department for assistance, Jackson said, and all employees have been accounted for. Gulf State Road was shut down.
The injuries varied — including broken bones — and three contract workers have sustained critical injuries. Beaumont Fire Department Chief Brad Penisson said that helicopters were scheduled to fly in from Houston and transport the burn victims to the Galveston Burn Center. However, due to inclement weather, all flights were canceled.
“Normally we’d stabilize them here and then transport them by helicopter, but the delay factor was too great,” Penisson said. “This is not good helicopter weather.”
Tara Bettis, a longtime resident of Doucette Street near the refinery, said it is common practice for ExxonMobil to blow whistles when an incident like this one occurs, to notify the people who live nearby.
“I’ve been here 40 years, and they always blow whistles so you know if something happens in the middle of the night,” Bettis said. “You never know if something happens that could trigger something else. I wish we’d been informed.”
However, Jackson assured Bettis that she and other residents were in no danger. She also said ExxonMobil is conducting a full investigation to determine the cause of the fire.
“We have representatives with each individual who was injured, and we are working with all appropriate authorities to conduct an investigation,” Jackson said. “It’s a long, very comprehensive process to determine what caused the fire. Our thoughts are with the folks who have been injured, that they will receive the necessary treatment and make a full recovery.”