GARYVILLE, La. (WGNO) — St. John the Baptist Parish emergency officials are investigating the cause of a chemical release and fire at a Garyville refinery on Friday, Aug. 25.

Parish President Jaclyn Hotard reported at 6:53 a.m., parish officials were called to respond to the incident at Marathon Petroleum on 4663 W Airline Highway.

Neighbors near the refinery say it took over four hours to find out exactly what was going on.

While workers at the plant were doing everything in their power to get things under control.

“Initially, it was a lazy flame, and we were putting foam on it to keep the fumes and the fire down. As the day gets hotter it reignited,” said Marathon Petroleum Human Resource Manager Justin Lawerence.

Parents rushed to schools to pick up their children and neighborhoods emptied out as residents evacuated. Many of them expressing disappointed in the parish, some saying they didn’t get any information until around 11:30.

“Nothing. I didn’t get a d*** alert to my phone or email. I didn’t get anything. It just took word of mouth. I think they should definitely learn from this experience how to get it out mass communication. I know you guys are familiar with the weather alert, we get the beep, and it lets you know where there is pending bad weather coming in. It should be the same with these plants in the area,” said Toya Morton, a resident.

Neighbors say it doesn’t matter if it’s a major incident like this one, or even a small one. They need the information as soon as possible.

“Because I have grandkids, I have a puppy and also my husband has lung cancer. We are going through that process of now we are taking treatment. I think it should have been a better protocol than what they did,” said Debra Johnson, a resident.

Both the leak and fire were reportedly contained within the refinery’s property, according to company officials.

In a news conference, Deputy Chief of Operation Travis Perrilloux reported about 50 personnel from the New Orleans region, other refineries and adjacent parishes assisted with fire suppression efforts.

Out of an abundance of caution, air monitoring was deployed.

The mandatory evacuation order has been lifted as responders get the flames under control.

Two shelters have been set up for evacuees, located at:

  • East St. John Prep Academy — 400 Ory Dr., Laplace
  • West St. John High School — 480 LA 3127, Edgard

Residents are asked to bring all essentially needed items including medications.

St. John Public Schools Interim Superintendent Kendria Spears reported a shelter-in-place order was issued for schools in the area:

  • East St. John Preparatory Academy
  • Fifth Ward Elementary School
  • East St. John High School Wildcats

The following schools have been evacuated:

  • Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School has been evacuated to Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School.
  • Riverside Academy has been evacuated to East St. John High School.

Marathon has set up a community assistance hotline to help members of the community impacted by the incident. The toll-free number is (866)-601-5880.

An investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the leak and fire. No injuries have been reported from the incident.

“I think residents should take any precautions that they feel necessary for their personal situations. We have been assured that in that two-mile radius, the concern is for the smoke plume that is moving as a result of this fire. We have been assured that the radius is a safe area,” said Hotard.

Louisiana State Police say as of now, LA 44 is the only road closure reported.

Watch full press conference

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