WATCH ABOVE: A video posted by MyMcMurray shows flames and heavy black smoke billowing from the Syncrude oil facility north of Fort McMurray Tuesday, March 14, 2017.
One day after a worker was seriously injured in an explosion and fire at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake upgrader facility, the company says it’s investigating what caused the incident.
The province also has Occupational Health and Safety officials on standby at the site. They will not be able to gain access to the fire site until it is safe for them to enter.
On Tuesday, shortly before 2 p.m., workers described smelling a strong scent of gas in one of the units. As alarms rang, they ran from the facility. One witness said it was only a matter of minutes before the ground shook and a huge fireball shot up into the air above the site.
“It smelled a lot like gasoline. It was pretty evident right away that something was going to happen. We started moving and got out of there as fast as we could… We all made it to our muster points and the ground shook,” said a contractor who asked not to be identified.
“We quickly realized that we could feel the wind shift a little bit. I turned around and looked up behind me and there was a fairly large fireball in the air.”
One person was taken to hospital in serious but stable condition.
“One Syncrude employee was injured and immediately attended to by Syncrude Emergency Services prior to being transported to hospital for medical attention,” the company said on its website. “Syncrude is providing support and resources to the employee’s family during this difficult time.”
Watch below: Nearly 24 hours after a fire at Syndcrude’s Mildred Lake Upgrader, the company says things are slowly getting back to normal. Julia Wong reports.
The facility was evacuated and firefighters from Syncrude, Suncor and Wood Buffalo got the blaze under control by around 5 p.m.
“Our focus right now is on stabilizing our operation, assessing the damage from the fire and investigating what caused the incident,” Syncrude spokesman Will Gibson said.
Syncrude said most of its workforce returned to the site Wednesday. However, Gibson couldn’t say whether production has resumed at the Mildred Lake upgrader.
— Syncrude Canada Ltd. (@SyncrudeCanada) March 15, 2017
Other employees told Global News contractors and Syncrude employees won’t be back on site until Monday.
Another fire at the Mildred Lake site in August 2015 slashed output at the facility by about 80 per cent. It returned to normal production the following October.
— With files from The Canadian Press
Watch below: A Syncrude employee is in hospital with burns following an explosion at the company’s upgrader facility north of Fort McMurray. Sarah Kraus reports.