NEW ORLEANS — A three-alarm fire at the Domino Sugar refinery in Arabi produced big flames and a lot of smoke Thursday but was brought under control in a little more than an hour's time and no one was injured, according to St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis.
The fire broke out in one of two 10-story silos on the property, which the fire department says were packed with sugar.
“This was packed in the silos, so it was not a dust situation, where we could have had an explosion. But I mean, anything could happen in a fire,” St. Bernard Parish Fire Chief Thomas Stone said.
Some St. Bernard firefighters had to quickly drive down from Baton Rouge, where they were ready to help with Hurricane Laura.
McInnis had instructed residents who live near the refinery to shelter in place, but later said it was safe enough for residents to evacuate if they so chose.
After an evacuation of the facility, refinery workers were counted to make sure no one was missing.
130 Domino employees managed to get out safely, but there is extensive damage to the historic refinery.
The fire took about two hours to get under control, and fire crews had to get creative to keep it from spreading.
“What we have now is we have firefighters that are going into a catwalk, 10 stories up, and they’re going to continue to apply water directly into the silo. But Domino turned on their river pumps and all of a sudden, we had all the water we wanted,” Stone said.
There were some reports of an explosion within the refinery, however, Domino told Chief Stone that there was none. An investigation into how the fire started is just beginning.
Domino’s parent company, ASR Group, wrote in a statement that the fire service is “carrying out a thermal-imaging assessment in the silos and surrounding buildings to confirm the site is clear.”
The St. Bernard Parish Firefighters Local 1468 said in a tweet that the fire reached 3-alarms at one point.