Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Explosions, fire rock N.D. oil-supply business

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A huge fire with 150-metre flames erupted at an oil-industry supply business early Tuesday in the town of Williston, N.D., prompting an 800-metre-radius evacuation zone around the blaze that is expected to burn for up to 48 hours, officials said.

Explosions and flames began just after midnight at Red River Supply, the Williams County Emergency Services told the Los Angeles Times. A state highway near the fire was closed down. No injuries were reported, and the cause is not yet known.

Red River Supply is a family-owned and operated company that was founded by Rich Vestal in the 1970s and offers various products and services to the local oil industry. On its website, the company says it distributes rail spurs for loading and unloading crude oil, drill pipes and casing and provides storage, blending and delivery of drilling fluids such as calcium chloride, calcium bromide, calcium nitrate and potash.

Vestal was out of town when the explosion occurred. He told the Times he has barely been able to get in touch with his employees at the scene during the chaos.

"For now, all I know is that it's burning up a bunch of my trucks and one of my fields," he said.

Fire departments from three counties, the North Dakota hazardous materials response team and the North Dakota National Guard have all been called in to battle the fire, which has been mostly contained, but emergency officials said in a statement they would be on scene for an additional 24 to 48 hours.

The site continues to spew plumes of black smoke that "may adversely affect air quality in the surrounding area and may cause health concerns," the North Dakota Health Department said. The department said it is advising people in the surrounding area to stay indoors and keep their windows closed.

There was a temporary flight restriction at Sloulin Field International Airport on Tuesday morning because of the potentially hazardous smoke, but the airport is now open, its website states.

-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2014 A10

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