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Originally published Friday, February 17, 2012 at 5:19 PM

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Fire crews respond to blaze at BP refinery

A fire at Washington's largest oil refinery broke out Friday afternoon, sparking bursts of flames and creating a thick plume of black smoke that could be seen for miles.

The Associated Press

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FERNDALE, Wash. —

A fire at Washington's largest oil refinery broke out Friday afternoon, sparking bursts of flames and creating a thick plume of black smoke that could be seen for miles.

Workers at the BP Cherry Point refinery near Blaine in Whatcom County were evacuated shortly after the fire broke out at around 2:30 p.m. Live television footage showed crews sending several streams of water into the fire and also using retardant foam to douse the facility.

The blaze was reportedly in a tower on the south side of the refinery. A BP spokesman didn't tell the Bellingham Herald what the tower is normally used for or what it contained.

The refinery has its own fire crews but mutual aid was requested from other agencies. There were no report of injuries, state Department of Labor and Industries spokesman Hector Castro said

The one-square mile refinery employs more than 800 people and can process up to 230,000 barrels of crude oil a day. From that amount, the refinery has the ability to produce 2.5 million gallons of jet fuel, 3.5 million gallons of gasoline, 2.2 million gallons of diesel, 360,000 gallons of butane and 140,000 gallons of propane.

According to the BP website, the refinery is the largest supplier of fuel for the Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, B.C., airports. It also provides 20 percent of Washington state's gasoline, the website said.

The refinery was fined more than $69,000 in 2010 for 13 serious safety violations, Castro said. He added that all five of the state's refineries have been fined for safety regulations.

Inspectors were heading to the refinery to investigate, Castro said.

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