It was a beautiful Saturday morning in August, so naturally I was sleeping in. Eventually crawled out of bed, after a phone call from my parents, who were on vacation at the time. They had heard about some explosion, and were wondering if I was ok. I blinked, said I was fine, and wandered outside. Looking pretty much straight north, I'd say about 10 kilometers away, I saw a plume of smoke. A really thick, black plume of smoke.
The Hub Oil Refinery in Calgary specialized in recycling used petroleum products. Oil and Gas and various stuff such as that. The plant had reopened for business the day before, after a 3 week shutdown for annual maintenance. Obviously, this maintenance wasn't exactly up to par. On August 9, 1999, a fire started in the boiler room, which quickly spread.
This would be what happens when you have a number of tanks in shoddy condition holding explosive fuel sources. The fire kept leaping from tank to tank, sending shards of metal flying hundreds of meters in the air, and blowing plumes of burning oil skyward. The shockwaves from the explosions could be felt up to a kilometer away.
Unfortunately, two workers at the plant were killed, and 5 others required hospitalization. A total of 40 tanks blew up, pretty much destroying the entire place.
The best part? Hub Oil was right next to a residential area.
Police tried to evacuate houses within a 6.5 km radius. However, this evacuation was not mandatory, and there were reports of children playing outside within a few kilometers of the fire. Some parents suck. Those notwithstanding, citizens were advised not to eat any garden vegetables, and not to use any swimming pools, or to let their children play with toys that had been left outside.
It took firefighters over 9 hours to get the fire under control. Thankfully, they were able to do so, although it looked close at one point trying to contain a fire that had completely surrounded a tank of sulphuric acid. It was the largest fire in Calgary's history.
The Hub Oil company is currently facing 8 counts of public endangerment, and 2 civil suits from the families of the two employees who died in the explosions.