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Exxon Mobil has evacuated the non-essential personnel from the Las Flores Canyon facility in Santa Barbara County in California due to a wildfire that has yet to be brought under control.
The fire began Wednesday afternoon in the Los Padres National Forest, and according to the Associated Press, is now out of control, forcing the evacuation of campers, homes, and Exxon’s refinery.
The Exxon facility appears to be unharmed at this point. “The refinery has fire around it, and companies in place protecting it," Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said, adding that it has a cleared buffer zone.
Exxon Mobil is monitoring the situation, and the company still has employees on site performing fire protection activities. The fire, known as the Scherpa (or Sherpa) Fire, is in the Refugio Canyon area approximately 15 miles away from the city of Santa Barbara, and has spanned 1200 acres as of 7am this morning.
No injuries have been reported, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The cause of the initial fire has yet to be determined.
The Las Flores Canyon facility receives crude from offshore wells, which is then piped to refineries in other parts of the state.
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Exxon’s Las Flores facility has already experienced its share of trouble, with a Plains All American pipeline rupture last year, which spewed 140,000 gallons of oil into the coastline and ocean, forcing Exxon to stop production at three of its platforms pending repairs.
Up until last month, the refinery was holding onto over 425,000 barrels of crude that were stranded after the rupture. Exxon was able to move the crude via trucks last month after Santa Barbara County expressed environmental concerns.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for US-based Divergente LLC consulting firm, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.