Fire Shuts Down Southern Kentucky Gasoline Refinery

Just after 10 Friday morning, fire broke out at Somerset Refinery where gasoline is made. It posed a challenging situation for firefighters.

“And really, (we) have to watch the gasoline spread because it's on top of the ground; and as you know, water and gasoline don't mix,” said Somerset Fire Chief Skip Norfleet.

Somerset oil officials say the flash fire started in the area where gasoline's octane levels are increased.

“We really don't know what caused it. The area it is in is normally designed with explosion proof equipment,” says Somerset Refinery, Inc. President Jan Acrea.

The refinery is decades old, but because of a bankruptcy situation, financial issues and legal battles, the refinery was shut down in December. Production was put on hold for nine months and had just resumed on Monday.

Company officials say numerous safeguards were taken and plenty of personnel were on hand during production.

However, John Paul Beckish, who says he used to work for Somerset Oil's sister company dealing with environmental services, says he feared something like this would happen, because the production was stopped for so long.

“We would say, ‘pipes rust, pressure is lost’. We had experienced losses into the environment during the time it was done; all those were investigated by state and federal officials,” said Beckish.

No one was hurt in the fire, but production was halted to find out why it happened.

“So we don't know where the flash came from, but in the 20 years I've been here, this is only the second fire we've had. So we have a pretty good record,” said Acrea.

There was the potential for a creek to be contaminated, but officials say no gasoline was found in nearby waterways.

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