Fireball rises above a burning refinery unit in Ukhta, Russia. - Photo courtesy of Ukhta city government

Fireball rises above a burning refinery unit in Ukhta, Russia.

Photo courtesy of Ukhta city government

A worker suffered burns to his face and chest in a refinery fire that broke out in northeastern Russia Thursday afternoon, flames lasting more than seven hours.

Ignition occurred in an additive input unit at the refinery in Ukhta, located in the Komi Republic, PJSC LUKOIL, a Russian multinational energy corporation, reports. The smallest of Lukoil’s four refineries in Russia, the Ukhta refinery produces up to five metric tons of crude oil annually.

“The block is an independent unit located at a safe distance from the refinery’s main facilities,” a LUKOIL press release states. “Other production facilities at the refinery are operating normally.”

The injured employee is listed in satisfactory condition, the release states.

Ukhta mayor Magomed Osmanov, conducting a media briefing Friday said the major damage to the refinery involved a battery of small storage tanks.

“There are only nine of them, with a small volume of 300 to 370 cubic meters combined,” Osmanov said.

The initial blast was sufficient to damage the city’s heating network and a nearby kindergarten. Responders with the Ukhta Fire and Rescue garrison arrived on the scene within eight minutes of the first alarm, the mayor said.

However, the affected area of the fire quickly spread from 200 square meters to 1,000 square meters.

Additional resources dispatched from Sosnogorsk arrived by train one hour into the emergency, Osmanov said. Within the first two hours firefighters managed to diminish the area involved to only 700 square meters.

Unfortunately, three hours into the blaze the failure of a third storage tank dumped a large amount of fuel on the blaze. Inside half an hour, two additional tanks failed and caught fire. By the end of the emergency, eight of the nine tanks in the battery were destroyed.

At the height of the disaster, 104 emergency responders staffing 19 fire vehicles were battling the fire, Osmanov said. Atmospheric testing for air contamination revealed no cause for alarm, he said

Firefighters gained control at 11:18 p.m. Thursday , eliminating the fire completely shortly after midnight.

“I was on the scene almost all the time,” Osmanov said. “I saw with my own eyes what was happening and how we controlled the scale of the situation. We were not even talking about the evacuation of residents or the closure and shutdown of the refinery.”

A commission has been created to determine the cause of the emergency, the LUKOIL press release states.