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1,400 employees safely evacuated after Motiva refinery fire

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CONVENT - The general manager of the Motiva refinery that saw a large fire on Thursday says all personnel at the site have been accounted for with no injuries reported.

The GM said around 1,400 people were on site at the plant when the fire started late Thursday morning. Initial reports said there was an explosion at the facility, but the GM declined to confirm this.

The oil refinery is located on Highway 44 near the Sunshine Bridge in St. James Parish.

According to Motiva, a heavy oil conversion unit near the center of the plant caught fire at around 10:50 a.m. It is not completely clear at this point in the investigation if the fire was started by a lightning strike in the area. Other units in the refinery were not impacted and remain operational, according to a release from Motiva.

There were no shelter-in-place orders or further instructions for residents of the area immediately after the fire, which was contained by 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Motiva says fence line monitoring showed no air quality issues outside of the plant. Employees not directly involved in the operation or response have been released for the day.

Road closures resulted around the site on LA 70 East at Hwy 3125 for around an hour as crews worked to contain the fire. River Road saw closures, but the shutdowns were largely due to flooding in the area as inclement weather passed through.

Motiva is a refiner and distributor of fuels headquartered in Houston. They have yet to comment. There have been reports of previous fires at the plant in February 2014 and 2015. 

Motiva Enterprises owns and operates three refineries in Convent, Norco and Port Arthur, Texas. The oil refinery produces petroleum products including regular, premium and low-sulfur gas. In 1979, the refinery in Convent underwent an expansion.

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