Homeowners near ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Refinery left rattled after fire, say communication needs improvement

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - You have to squint to see the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Refinery through the trees. But just before midnight yesterday, folks in the area didn’t have a problem spotting it.

ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Refinery | Source: WAFB

“I came out into the front yard and you were able to see the flames,” Crystal Poray said. “You could hear it in fact.”

Poray has lived in the same neighborhood not far from the refinery since she was six years old. She says watching the building on fire made her feel stuck. She didn’t know whether to leave or stay or if her family was in real danger.

“At the same time, I was like maybe I should leave. I have 3 kids. My oldest being eight. If I don't leave, they're in danger,” she said.

Crystal says she didn’t hear a siren, and she never got a reverse 911 call from city-parish emergency officials.

“It used to be police coming down the street saying shelter in place, close your windows, close your doors, stay inside until we say otherwise. But there is no alarm sounding. No police, no intercom. Anything,” she said.

Crystal’s Uncle Lewis lives in Port Allen.

“We didn't have no alarms going off,” Lewis said. “Windows kind of rattled a little bit. I thought it was thunder.”

Lewis shares the same concern. The refinery overlooks his home.

“I looked out the window, and I saw a huge ball of fire and hollered for my wife to come to see. I brought my camera out,” he said.

The camera captured the red and orange flames shooting into the sky, “You could see the bright ball of fire over there and the flames,” he says.

Across town, Kayla Sacco’s house shook. She says her husband instantly guessed why.

“That was the first words out of his mouth that Exxon just blew,” she said.

Sacco says when they went to look outside, they saw a light ring across the sky "where you could tell something had been burning and had a burnt smell in the air.”

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality says the air quality is fine. Sacco is just not convinced.

“I have asthma. It's something I worry about,” she said.

People that live near Exxon say they don’t have plans to move but in near the future, they’d like to find out details about something serious without turning to social media.

“They need to do better. Families close by, they should have some type of warning letting them know they don't panic. Everything is fine,” Crystal Poray said.

“We didn’t have any warnings with the sirens or anything,” Sacco added. “It does concern us and wishes we would have a bit more communication.”

ExxonMobil released a statement about their response to the public saying:

“ExxonMobil began outreach to nearby neighbors and local elected officials at approximately 12:20 a.m. on Wednesday, February 12 via phone calls, emails, and the automated dialer notification system. The automated dialer notification system sent a notice to all residents within a 1.5-mile radius.”

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