Refinery explosion investigation “complex”: fire marshall

The Co-Op Refinery Complex was set on fire after a suspected Liquid Petroleum Gas explosion, on Dec. 24, 2013. Global News

REGINA – Determining exactly what happened on Christmas Eve at the Co-op refinery may take some time.

“This scene is severely compromised,” said Randy Ryba, the Regina fire marshall. “It’s covered in ice, there’s debris over quite a large area.”

Ryba was part of the team probing the 2011 explosion that injured more than 50 people, which took about two and a half months.

He says the Dec. 24 blast is more complex.

While questions surround the cause, there are also concerns about a new subdivision.

The Somerset development was approved by Regina city council in mid-December. It could be home to more than 3,000 people in close proximity to the refinery.

“We stand by our decision,” Mayor Michael Fougere said Monday. “It’s been known for many years that this was going to go on.”

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“(With other similar developments) there was no concern, whatsoever.”

Saskatchewan’s environment ministry continues to have concerns about residential development near heavy industry, however the government did approve the city’s development plan earlier in 2013.

In a statement, community planning spokesperson Ralph Leibel said the province doesn’t plan to interfere, “As long as the process used to arrive at the decision is in compliance with legislated requirements.”

Within the fire department, another neighbourhood nearby does raise warning flags.

“With the nature of the business, the size and scope of the operation, it can’t be guessed or forseen if (another explosion) happens in the future,” said Ryba.

Investigators are still being kept more than 60 metres from the blast site, though that could change as engineers assess the safety of the structure.

Fire officials could finally get an up close look at the scene as early as the end of the week.

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