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Holiday Somber for Wash. Town

November 27, 1998

ANACORTES, Wash. (AP) _ It was a somber Thanksgiving in this close-knit community one day after an explosion killed six men at an oil refinery.

``There’s nothing to celebrate today,″ said Toni Weekley, who tends bar at one of the watering holes frequented by workers at Equilon Puget Sound Refinery.

Streets in the picturesque waterfront town about 60 miles north of Seattle were quiet. Some residents went about their business as usual _ brunch, grocery shopping, church _ but it was apparent the deaths cast a deep shadow.

``We all have a hollow feeling today,″ said Dean Maxwell, mayor of the community of 13,500. ``This is on everyone’s mind. ... We’re pretty much all concerned as a community for the families of those killed.″

Ron J. Granfors, Wayne E. Dowe, Dave Murdzia, Warren Fry, Ted Cade and Jim Berlin were killed Wednesday in an explosion and fire in the refinery’s coker, where part of the refining process takes place. All six men were believed to be from the Anacortes area.

Flames created an inferno around the huge metal structure and strong winds sent clouds of black smoke over the area.

``We’re talking a minimum of 800 degrees around the vessel,″ said Tom Sheahan of the Skagit County Department of Emergency Services.

Equilon was formed in January 1998 as a joint venture of Texaco’s and Shell’s midwestern and western refining and marketing businesses.

The Anacortes plant had been trying to get back in service after an electrical power failure resulting from windstorms earlier in the week.

Company officials said Thursday they did not know the cause of the blast.

``We have an accident investigation team on site. ... We are not going to speculate what was the cause at this point,″ said Equilon Chief Executive Officer Jim Morgan.

State officials were also investigating the explosion, and a team from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, a federal agency, was arriving today.

Bouquets of flowers decorated a fence outside the refinery Thursday.

``I love you Daddy,″ read one note attached to a small bunch of red roses. ``To my father and friend,″ said another.

Relatives and friends sobbed and embraced each other in front of the flowers.

``You could call him anytime of the night and he’d help you out. He’d take his shirt off his back and give it to anybody,″ Mike Gourley said of Fry, who was his best friend.

``The last time I saw him, he had pulled up in his truck behind me while we were on our way to work ... and he was flashing his lights and honking,″ Gourley said. ``It was like the final kiss.″

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