Plant officials in Lake Charles, Louisiana say lightning triggered a fire at the Calcasieu Refining Plant, forcing officials to evacuate areas closest to the refinery while issuing a shelter-in-place order for a broader zone. The Calcasieu Refining Company is located on the Calcasieu Ship Channel roughly five miles southwest of Lake Charles, Louisiana. The plant refined products include liquid propane gas, naphtha, kerosene, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and heavy vacuum gas oil.
The Lake Charles Police Department said that initially an evacuation order was issued for people within 1.5 mile radius of the plant, including Graywood, with a shelter-in-place order issued for a 5 mile radius of Tank Farm Road. Authorities have since reduced the shelter-in-place order down to 3 miles.
Authorities say a large tank is on fire; the Lake Charles Fire Department described it as a “crude oil tank fire” but the specific contents that are burning have yet to be confirmed by multiple sources. While the refinery said lightning was to blame, there are also contradicting stories with how the blaze started. Weather RADAR does show numerous thunderstorms moving through Louisiana this evening.
The Port Director for the harbor, Ricky Self, told an NBC affiliate in the area that the plant was home to another fire on Thursday that may have started in an area where motor oil was stored for company vehicles. It isn’t clear if that fire is at all related to today’s.
Video from the region shows a a very large thick column of black smoke rising from the refining plant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidelines for staying safe during a shelter-in-place order:
- Get Inside, Stay Inside!
- Bring your loved ones, your emergency supplies, and when possible, your pets, indoors right away.
- Find a safe spot in this location. The exact spot will depend on the type of emergency,
- Stay put in this location until officials say that it is safe to leave.
- Call or text your emergency contact.
- Let them know where you are if any family members are missing, and how you are doing. Keep communication open but limited so others can communicate without knocking communication networks off-line from over-use.
- Sheltering with pets
- Prepare a spot for your pets to poop and pee while inside the shelter. You will need plenty of plastic bags, newspapers, containers, and cleaning supplies to deal with pet waste.
- Do not allow pets to go outside the shelter until the danger has passed.
- Staying Put in Your Vehicle
- Pull over to the side of the road.
- Stay where you are until officials say getting back on the road is safe.
- Listen to the radio for updates and additional instructions.