Lightning strike of oil storage tank sends fire shooting into the sky and causing evacuations of town

Saturday marked a potentially dangerous day for the city of Lake Charles, Louisiana when a lightning strike triggered a single-tank fire at the Calcasieu Refining Co. tank farm. The facility, which refines crude oil and runs a pipeline and barge transfer for oil products, reported no injuries and declined to comment when reached by phone.

Due to the fire, the Louisiana State Police issued mandatory evacuations for those as far as 1.5 miles away from the tank farm, and a shelter-in-place order was issued for people within 3 miles of the tank farm. By late evening, the blaze was still ongoing and about 70 residents of nearby assisted living facilities were relocated. An emergency shelter was established at the Burton Coliseum.

The fire department identified the fire as a “crude oil tank fire,” and Ricky Self, Port Director, indicated that earlier on Thursday there may have been a fire in a part of the premises where motor oil was held. Although the two events are unrelated, a front of volatile air bringing thunderstorms, hail, and the threat of flooding entered the area at the same time. Severe weather warnings were issued by the National Weather Service, while the Lake Charles Fire Department worked to contain the fire and make sure those in the region were safe.

Sparks flew Saturday, but fortunately, there were no casualties reported and the necessary organizations and personnel responded rapidly and efficiently.