Fire at Philadelphia Refinery Sparks Massive Explosion

A massive explosion rocked southwest Philadelphia early Friday morning sending debris raining down on streets and a plume of thick, black smoke into the sky, multiple outlets report.

The fire broke out at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery just after 4 a.m. authorities said. Early warning sirens and a shelter-in-place order was issued at around 5:30 a.m. for the area immediately surrounding the complex. The shelter-in-place order was lifted a few hours later.

The blast was felt as far away as New Jersey, NBC Philadelphia noted.

The Department of Public Health issued a notice to residents in the area saying that air samples and the surrounding community did not find any "ambient carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons (combustibles) or hydrogen sulfides."

"Air Management Services was on-scene immediately and took air samples. Preliminary testing at the refinery, and in the community around, found no ambient carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons (combustibles), or hydrogen sulfides," the department wrote in a release. "Additional samples were taken and transported to the Air Management Services Lab. We are awaiting the results of the tests being run and will release the interpretation of the results as soon as it is available.

"The Health Department has no findings that would point to any immediate danger in the surrounding community at this time, and the City is NOT recommending evacuation or shelter-in-place," the release added.

Officials have not released a cause for the fire, but the Philadelphia Fire Department said they received reports of a vat burning around 4:05 a.m. Friday at the refinery in southwest Philadelphia. Fire crews arrived on scene to find that PES's fire brigade was already working the fire. The fire was eventually contained shortly before 6 a.m., but the fire is not completely out and was still burning as of 9 a.m. this morning. Refinery officials believe the product that is burning is propane. Workers were on-site at the time of the explosion, but they were far enough away that they managed to avoid any serious injuries. Four workers at the refinery had to be treated for minor injuries, a refinery spokesperson said.

The refinery is the largest on the East Coast and employs more than 1,000 people. The site processes more than 335,000 barrels of crude oil daily, according to its website.

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