Cause of N.L. refinery flash fire still unknown as slow return to work begins

·2 min read
Jim Stump, left, was tight-lipped Tuesday when asked about a flash fire that seriously injured workers and halted an expensive conversion project earlier this month. (Danny Arsenault/CBC - image credit)
Jim Stump, left, was tight-lipped Tuesday when asked about a flash fire that seriously injured workers and halted an expensive conversion project earlier this month. (Danny Arsenault/CBC - image credit)

The man in charge of the Come By Chance refinery was cordial but tight-lipped Tuesday when questioned about a flash fire that injured workers and halted construction at the site earlier this month.

Jim Stump is president of refining for Braya Renewable Fuels, the new owner of the former oil refinery in Newfoundland's Placentia Bay.

Stump was in St. John's on Tuesday morning for a meeting with various union leaders who represent contract workers at the site.

The meeting lasted more than 90 minutes. Afterward, Stump would not answer when asked by a CBC reporter what caused the Sept. 2 fire and what the company is doing to ensure a similar disaster is avoided in the future.

"All I'm prepared to say is we're here today talking to the trade union representatives and we're discussing a safe return to work," he said.

Sarah Sears/CBC
Sarah Sears/CBC

When pressed further about the fire and its cause, Stump said, "We're not prepared to be public with that right now."

The half-dozen or so union leaders who met with Stump also avoided questions as they left the Trades N.L. building on Mews Place.

Workers directly employed by Braya are represented by Local 9316 of the United Steelworkers union. President Glenn Nolan declined an interview Tuesday but said he may comment on Wednesday.

Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

Earlier this month, Nolan said safety complaints had been raised by some of his members before the fire but he was satisfied with Braya's approach to safety overall.

Braya took over the former oil refinery late last year and is spending hundreds of millions to convert it into a renewable fuels producer.

Meanwhile, three different divisions of the provincial government are investigating the flash fire, and a stop-work order in the area of the refinery where the fire occurred remains in place.

The company has completed its own internal probe and has shared its findings with the injured workers, their families, and some unions.

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

Braya's response to the fire has been carefully managed by a public relations company.

In a statement released late Tuesday morning, the company said, "The return-to-work schedule is fluid, with workers returning throughout the week, starting today. Our focus remains on the safety and well-being of workers at the site."

Eight workers were injured during the fire. Some received serious burns and other injuries, and remain hospitalized.

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