Refinery fire triggers memories of past troubles for neighbors

No injuries reported in Saturday oil spill, fire

SAN ANTONIO, TX – A small fire at the Calumet Specialty Parts refinery late Saturday night had people who live in the surrounding South Side neighborhood recalling memories of past incidents that forced them from their homes, and left a refinery worker injured.

A spokesman for the refinery did not immediate return a call Monday to KSAT 12 News requesting information about the latest incident.  According to firefighters at the scene, an unknown amount of oil spilled and caught fire just before 11 p.m. Saturday as it was being transferred from one tank to another.

There were no injuries reported. Neighbors said there were no calls to evacuate the area and some said they didn’t even notice the fire.

Rafael Ramirez, who owns a business across from the plant in the 7800 block of South Presa Street, said he had closed his welding shop about an hour before the fire started.  Still, he has seen his share of trouble at that location.

"I've been here since 1970, so I've seen a lot going on there," Ramirez said. "I've seen the beginning of the fires and I’ve seen a lot of people running like scared rabbits. And I don't blame them.”

Ramirez said he has evacuated five times throughout the years.

One time was in 2010, when a tanker truck at the refinery, then owned by a company called AGE, caught fire and exploded. A worker suffered burns over 75 percent of his body and people had to leave nearby homes due to the danger.

In December 2011, while the plant was operating as NuStar refinery, another fire forced workers to evacuate.

A fire in September 2014 forced police to shut down a stretch of South Presa Street for several hours.

Even with all that has happened there, Ramirez said he has no plans to leave anytime soon.

"None whatsoever. If I'm going to die, I'm going to die. And I’m going to die someday,” he said.

In its most recent review of the refinery, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality gave Calumet a rating of 4.13, which is classified as “satisfactory.”

TCEQ said under its system, a zero rating indicates perfect compliance.  A customer’s rating increases with every failure to comply.

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