WOODS CROSS, Utah -- An asphalt refinery in Woods Cross was in danger of blowing up Tuesday afternoon after a fire broke out in one of the furnaces, sending huge clouds of thick, black smoke into the air.
The fire started around 12:30 p.m. at the Foreland Refinery on 2600 South and 1560 West.
For more than an hour the mess of smoke consumed everything and everyone in its path as it moved across the North Salt Lake sky.
“As the wind would shift back and forth depending on where our crews were they had to reposition around that just because it was blowing so hard at the plant where the fire was,” said Chief Jeff Bassett of the South Davis Metro Fire Department.
The fire department said a broken pipe in the furnace caused asphalt material to catch fire, sending the flames up through the smoke stack. The fire then spread to more asphalt material on the ground outside of the furnace.
“As the asphalt, when it burns, it’s going to burn thick and black smoke, that heavy black smoke,” Bassett said.
Battling through the smoke and washing out the flames was just one of the top priorities for the 25 firefighters on scene.
“We had some concern with some other tanks that were filled with gasoline that we had to get cooled right away to prevent any further explosions or hazards,” Bassett said.
The fire department told businesses in the area to keep their employees inside and to close windows but one of those businesses took matters into their own hands and decided to evacuate.
“I think that was brilliant for them to get everyone out of the building, get everyone safe,” said Elizabeth Serrano.
Serrano said she and her fellow co-workers at Medical Device Specialists were having a hard time breathing, while the smell was horrifically strong. She was afraid something was going to explode.
“I could see some people coming into the street, taking videos, and I came out here and yelled at them, told them to get into their cars and leave because you never know, it was so close to all the oil lines and the planes right here,” Serrano said.
The Sky Park Airport was closed until crews could put out the fire. Shortly afterward it was back to normal for businesses, but as for the refinery, they suffered an estimated $100,000 in damages.