Fire at Marathon refinery in St. John Parish burns for seven hours

By: - August 25, 2023 3:01 pm
Plumes of smoke rise into the sky over the Marathon Petroleum refinery in Garyville on Aug. 25, 2023.

Plumes of smoke rise into the sky over the Marathon Petroleum refinery in Garyville on Aug. 25, 2023. (WVUE-TV screen capture)

A fire that erupted at the Marathon Petroleum refinery in Garyville early Friday burned for roughly seven hours before it was extinguished after 2 p.m., allowing nearby residents to return home after a mandatory evacuation order was put in place within 2 miles of the facility. 

St. John the Baptist Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said firefighters and emergency crews responded to the Garyville facility at 6:53 a.m. after Marathon workers reported that a flammable naphtha liquid had ignited. Naphtha is a petroleum feedstock used to refine gasoline. 

A Marathon representative said the naphtha was leaking from a storage tank when it ignited, but the company doesn’t yet know the source of the ignition or cause of the leak. The fire involved liquid contained inside a retainment dike that surrounds the tanks, and not the content of the tanks themselves, according to the company.

Thick, black plumes of smoke rose into the sky high above the refinery and moved slowly upriver for roughly seven hours, with fireballs occasionally erupting from the tank containment area.    

There have been no reports of injury related to the fire, parish officials said.

The incident comes just over a month after a separate large fire and explosion at the Dow Chemical plant in Plaquemine, the cause of which remains under investigation.

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Gregory Langley said the agency has officials on the scene working with Marathon to conduct air monitoring at the facility and in the nearby community.

Hotard said she ordered the mandatory evacuation as a precaution. Riverside Academy moved its students to another campus. 

The parish opened evacuation shelters at three area high schools, including the West St. John campus across the river from the refinery.  


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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi.