Saturday, August 14, 1999

‘Mass explosion’
averted from fire
at Tesoro refinery

Fourteen fire companies
responded, but Tesoro's
own crew extinguished it

By Mary Adamski
and Harold Morse


Fourteen fire companies responded to a flash fire of gasoline vapors at the Tesoro refinery at Campbell Industrial Park last night, but the fire was extinguished by the company's fire brigade.

"It's what we call a good stop," Honolulu fire Capt. Richard Soo said at the scene. "The potential for a mass explosion is very great. The company showed the safety measures in place here."

No preliminary damage figures were available.

Company spokesman Nathan Hokama said Tesoro officials were meeting this morning to investigate the cause and to assess the damage.

The emergency started with a leak from a flange connecting two pipes on the outside the plant, according to Soo. The gasoline vapor ignited and flared up.

Firefighters at the Kapolei fire station, more than two miles down the coast, spotted the oily black smoke shortly after 7 p.m. and headed for the scene, alerting the fire department dispatcher to send other units.

Soo said the first three companies at the scene sprayed cooling water from corners of the plant, allowing a company crew to close the valve and stop the flow.

The fire started in a vacuum unit which produces gas oil in the refinery process. After flames were doused, the unit was placed in a standby mode as an investigation continued.

"The flames were up well above their buildings," said Mike Osborn, owner of Ozzie's Trucking.

He said he and other men were working at the South Pacific Steel yard more than a mile from the refinery when they spotted smoke.

"We drove down to have a look. If the flames were that big, I know what that means," said Osborn. "About that time, sirens started going off."

It convinced him and the others to leave the area. They left to eat and returned to work later.

Five Tesoro employees were taken to St. Francis-West Hospital because of smoke inhalation. All were treated and released.

Two Navy fire companies from Barbers Point responded to the scene of the three-alarm fire, along with 10 Honolulu Fire Department units. Fire Chief Attilio Leonardi and three battalion chiefs, as well as Oahu Civil Defense Director Joe Reed, were on the scene.

Meanwhile, about two miles away, Friday night drag races went on without interruption at the Hawaii Raceway Park.

Fire companies from as far away as the Windward side were relocated to cover Leeward stations.

The hazardous materials unit remained at the scene last night as company and fire officials determined what remedy was needed for spilled petroleum product.

Last night's fire was much less damaging than a massive petroleum fire Aug. 15, 1980, in the Pier 30 storage area along Nimitz Highway.

In that Iwilei fire, two men were fatally injured, and about six others also received injuries at the Chevron and Shell Oil Co. waterfront facility. That blaze left damages of about $3 million.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin