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Friday, November 3, 2017 @ 03:11 PM gHale

A 51-year-old Shaw Industries worker in Georgia died Monday night after getting caught in a piece of machinery, officials said.

Jesus Pimentel, a Shaw Industries worker, was caught between a moving part of a machine and a stationary steel I-beam, said Whitfield County Coroner Greg Bates.

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“He apparently got caught in a piece of machinery,” said Bruce Frazier, spokesman for the Dalton (Ga.) Police Department. The police department is not conducting an investigation since the death was accidental, he said.

Frazier said the accident happened around 9 p.m. Monday. Hamilton EMS and the Dalton Fire Department responded to the incident, but fire officials said firefighters went to the scene only in support of EMS.

Shaw Industries confirmed Pimentel worked at the company’s plant No. 23 on Abutment Road in Dalton, Shaw spokeswoman Susan Farris said.

“There is nothing more important to Shaw than the health and safety of every associate and we are investigating this incident,” Farris said. “The plant will be temporarily shut down during this time. Our thoughts are with the associate’s family during this difficult time.”

Farris said Pimentel had worked for Shaw Industries since 2007. Officials said he had a wife and daughter.

Whitfield County Coroner Greg Bates said Tuesday that it appeared Pimentel got caught between a machine’s moving part and a stationary steel I-beam. Bates said the cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the head.

“Apparently there was a piece of carpet stuck in the machine and they tied a rope around it,” Bates said.

“[Pimentel] was up on a catwalk and they were going to throw him that rope so that he could pull the piece of carpet out that was stuck. When they threw him that rope, he missed it,” Bates said. “He bent over to get it and he bent over between a moving part of a machine and a steel I-beam. The machine he bent down beside shifted.”

Bates said he had not yet been contacted by Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials about the accident, but that he expected federal officials would be in touch since it was an industrial accident.

Thursday, November 2, 2017 @ 05:11 PM gHale

Flames erupt from a fruit processing plant in Bingen, WA.

Huge flames consumed part a fruit processing plant in the Columbia Gorge community of Bingen, WA.

The 5:45 a.m. fire Oct. 18 at the Underwood Fruit and Warehouse Company plant caused some power outages in Bingen. The fire also affected some morning school bus routes.

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Klickitat Public Utility District said the fire caused 600 power outages in the area. They said the flames burned a conductor line that serves homes in Bingen and White Salmon. In addition, students at area schools were kept indoors during recess due to air quality concerns.

Arriving fire crews quickly put out a call for backup. Officials thought the fire was out, but flames flared up again during the night.

Underwood Fruit and Warehouse packs and ships for 55 area growers, according to the company website. The company was formed in 1917 by seven local growers.

Three pear warehouses appeared to be destroyed. An apple warehouse was spared, said Chief Executive Don Gibson. He said no one was in the buildings where fire broke out. The company employs about 270 workers at the site.

Gibson said neighboring operations may allow them to operate in off hours, allowing some workers to return to work.

Gibson said the cause of the fire is under investigation. The fire broke out when the packing company is at peak inventory with picked fruit, he said. Gibson said the company is insured and growers’ losses will be covered. He said inventory details aren’t available yet.

Firefighters said everyone made it out of the building safely.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 @ 12:11 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
It is no secret the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warning for critical infrastructure organizations regarding an attack campaign.

The main question to come to mind is yes, there is a warning, but how can you tell if the bad guys are in the system?

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“There are indications they are looking for things inside the networks themselves,” said Dana Tamir, vice president of market strategies and security provider, Indegy. “It is very easy to mask their activities. It seems everyone has privileged access. Everyone with gained access to the network can do anything they want. The way we look for things is we first look for anomalies that appear to be suspicious and out of the ordinary. For example, communication between two assets that have never communicated before, or a command that doesn’t meet the kind activity ever done on the network, or the use of new protocols never used before. In addition, we use rule-based policies that determine what is acceptable activities.”

The alert on the US-CERT site warns, “Since at least May 2017, threat actors have targeted government entities and the energy, water, aviation, nuclear, and critical manufacturing sectors, and, in some cases, have leveraged their capabilities to compromise victims’ networks.”

They consider the attack to be ongoing. The DHS and FBI warning centers around an ongoing attack campaign from an advanced actor, most probably Dragonfly and its associated names of Crouching Yeti and Energetic Bear.

The warning went out to government entities and organizations in the energy, nuclear, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.

It appears the attacker is seeking a position for possible action against the critical infrastructure in the future, the report said.

Attackers have chosen their targets rather than attacking targets of opportunity. Typically, this is followed by a spear-phishing campaign using email attachments to leverage Microsoft Office functions to retrieve a document using the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. This sends the user’s credential hash to the remote server, where “The threat actors then likely used password-cracking techniques to obtain the plaintext password. Once actors obtain valid credentials, they are able to masquerade as authorized users.”

Watering holes are also used to gather credentials.

“The threat actors compromise the infrastructure of trusted organizations to reach intended targets,” the report said. “Although these watering holes may host legitimate content by reputable organizations, the threat actors have altered them to contain and reference malicious content. Approximately half of the known watering holes are trade publications and informational websites related to process control, ICS, or critical infrastructure.”

When credentials have been gained, the attackers use these to access victims’ networks where multi-factor authentication is not in use. Once inside the networks, the attackers download their tools from a remote server.

“This alert shows adversaries are getting into networks and they are getting in deeper and deeper,” Tamir said. “Previous alerts on phishing attacks on the energy sector and campaigns like Dragon Fly they all referred to things like gathering credentials and infiltrating the systems. What this report shows is reconnaissance activity within industrial control networks and this is an alarming thing. It means adversaries are getting through into these networks and can access the physical processes as they operate.”

These kinds of warnings and attacks are becoming a bit better known these days, but the question also remains if users are secure.

“Surprising? No. Critical infrastructure presents high value targets that if exploited can produce significant political or financial gain – more than retail or financial industry targets we tend to see in the news,” said David Zahn, GM of the cybersecurity business unit at PAS. “The reason is that the industrial control systems that sit at the end of the industrial facility’s kill chain control in many cases volatile process. This means that an attack can cause physical consequences including injury to plant personnel, community, environment, or production capability.”

“This is not the first time that we’ve heard of recon attacks leveraged against ICS with command and control capabilities on our energy, nuclear and critical manufacturing sectors,” said Dean Weber, CTO at Mocana. “This is the first recent cyber attack campaign targeting water utilities and aviation. Unfortunately, corporate IT networks are not always separated from the operational technology (OT) networks, making them particularly vulnerable.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 @ 04:10 PM gHale

A fire rages at the Chevron’s El Segundo refinery in California.

There was a fire at the Chevron refinery in El Segundo, CA, last Tuesday night that still has authorities looking to see what went wrong.

The fire broke out around 10:30 p.m. at or near a malfunctioning pump, said Breck Slover, battalion chief with the El Segundo Fire Department. There was no explosion, but loud bangs from electrical transformers blowing up were heard at the plant. The cause of the pump malfunction is unknown, Slover said.

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The fire sent flames nearly 40 feet skyward and burned for about an hour and 20 minutes.

The blaze could have been much worse, Slover said. Emergency personnel shut down the fuel supply to the pump and hosed down some nearby petroleum tanks to prevent them from failing.

“If the tanks failed, it would have been a three- or four-day event,” Slover said.

No one suffered an injury in the incident, Slover said. It’s not clear how much property damage the fire caused.

When the incident was ongoing, a shelter in place was ordered by El Segundo officials in an effort to minimize the effects of drifting smoke.

Neighbors often complain that the refinery, the largest of its kind on the West Coast, emits offensive odors and has caused health problems, but the fire department hasn’t received any formal complaints from residents about Tuesday’s fire, Slover said.

Slover said it’s been at least five years since there was a significant fire at the refinery. The fire department is called to the plant several times a year, he said.

“Anytime something happens over there, it’s got the potential to be really bad,” Slover said.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is also investigating any potential air quality violations, said spokesman Sam Atwood. A district inspector examined the plant Tuesday night after the fire, Atwood said.

Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 05:10 PM gHale

A hazardous materials situation at Utica Corp.’s Whitesboro, NY, facility Thursday night forced workers to evacuate the area.

Emergency workers got the call at 8:56 p.m. to the 8273 Halsey Road manufacturing facility, where they learned an overhead mechanism that dips parts into various acid tanks had malfunctioned, he said.

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The factory produces fan blades for jet engines, and they treat the metal by dipping it into a vat of acid. The acid bath is an automated process, but something went wrong with the machine and it did not remove the blade from the acid at about 9 p.m. Thursday, said New York Mills fire Chief Rick Ulinski.

“The part was in the tank longer than it should have been,” he said. The metal blade started dissolving and reacting with the acid, Ulinski said. “The tank was fuming and possibly boiling over, spilling the acid.”

The mechanism didn’t lift the part back out of one of the tanks, resulting in it dissolving and creating fumes and spraying some acid out of the tank, Ulinski said.

The two workers evaluated at the scene by medical personnel were the closest workers to the tank when the incident happened, he said.

“Two were evaluated but found to be OK. No one was sent to the hospital,” Ulinski said shortly after emergency crews cleared the scene shortly after 11 p.m.

Employees were able to return inside as emergency crews were departing the scene.

Utica and Oneida County HazMat teams were sent to the scene, and Yorkville firefighters were on standby to cover other calls in New York Mills.

Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 10:10 AM gHale

An oil platform in Lake Pontchartrain can be seen in flames following an explosion Sunday night. Authorities said seven crew members were rescued and taken to hospitals. One person remains missing.
Photo by Chris Granger

An oil transfer platform exploded in Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana Sunday night near St. Charles Parish and north Kenner, leaving seven people injured and one missing, officials said.

Search and rescue operations were ongoing Sunday night after the 7:18 p.m. blast as rescue boats were sent from the Kenner Boat Launch at the end of Williams Boulevard, Kenner Police Department spokesman Sgt. Brian McGregor said.

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The Coast Guard suspended the search for the missing worker, Timothy Morrison, 44, just after 7 p.m. Monday, 24 hours after the blast. Eight people, including Morrison, were aboard the offshore platform when it exploded. Seven made it to shore and were taken to local hospitals with burns, authorities said.

Five of those injured were taken to the University Medical Center and two to East Jefferson General Hospital, according to Mike Guillot, director of East Jefferson Emergency Medical Services. The five who were brought to UMC “have blast type injuries and burns” and are in critical condition, he said, and the two at East Jefferson are stable.

The platform, which is located in unincorporated Jefferson Parish, is in production and owned by Clovelly Oil Co., said Taylor Darden, who is a lawyer for the company and listed with the Louisiana Secretary of State as its registered agent. East Bank Consolidated Fire Department Chief David Tibbets said Sunday the platform is used for the transfer of oil, and the department’s goal currently is to stop the oil flow and, if needed, let it burn off safely. 

Officials said Monday morning the fire was still burning, but at a “very low pressure.”

A Facebook post from the City of Kenner Government said the fire ignited because of “cleaning chemicals … on the surface of the oil rig platform,” but Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto would not confirm that was the cause of the blaze. Authorities will perform an investigation when the fire is out, he said. 

A press release from the Coast Guard noted a Bayou Gauche Fire Department vessel and another “good Samaritan vessel are on scene fighting the fire.” 

Damaged platform shown Monday after a fire broke out Sunday night. The fire on a platform in Lake Pontchartrain continued to burn, though at a “very low pressure.” One person remains missing and seven additional people were injured.
Photo from the City of Kenner

The Coast Guard and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation will both conduct water quality evaluations, according to a press release from Jefferson Parish. In a press conference Sunday night, authorities acknowledged there was a possibility that the fire meant oil could be leaking into the lake, but noted that Jefferson Parish drinking water will remain safe because it is pulled from the Mississippi River.

More than six organizations were aiding in the response to the explosion, Conley said, including the Coast Guard, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, Jefferson Parish, Kenner Police, St. Charles Parish, St. John Parish and several others. 

Flames could be seen on the lake Sunday night from the area around the Kenner boat launch, and the air smelled like burning rubber. Spotlights shone on the water as at least one helicopter was hovering overhead.

Friday, October 13, 2017 @ 03:10 PM gHale

There was a fire at the Hunt Southland Refining Company in Jones County, MS, Tuesday night.

The fire began just before 7 p.m. at the refinery on Haney Road off Highway 11, company officials said.

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A tank ignited during a routine asphalt transfer, causing the fire to spark, said David Carrol from Hunt Southland Refining Co.

Crews had the blaze extinguished by 7:18 p.m., but members stayed on the scene for several hours after to cool the area and monitor the situation. 

There were no injuries in the incident.

Jones County Emergency Management Officials said there were no evacuations issued to surrounding areas due to it being a non-hazardous situation. Multiple fire departments and agencies from Jones and Jasper Counties responded to the scene.

Carrol said there may be damage to the tank and associated lines. Operations at the refinery were back to normal just before 9 p.m.

“We’ve had exercises in that facility in the past and they came into big play last night with the actual event,” said Dan McKenna, Jones County Fire Coordinator.

“It was quickly determined that there was no threat to the surrounding community, no need for an evacuation, the firefighters and the employees at Hunt had the situation well within hand,” said Rodney Parker, deputy director of Jones County Emergency Management. 

The company is investigating the cause of the fire.

Friday, October 13, 2017 @ 10:10 AM gHale

A firefighter is in the hospital after an ammonia leak Monday night at a south Nashville, TN, automated freezer facility.

The incident occurred 8:30 p.m. Monday at Cold Storage of Nashville on Hackworth Street.

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The ammonia leaked from a 10,000-gallon refrigeration tank, said fire officials at the scene.

The Nashville Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Team stopped the leak within an hour.

One firefighter ended up hospitalized after suffering from a medical issue that happened while he was responding to the leak. He has since been treated and released.

The ammonia levels at the plant have returned to normal and repairs are reportedly underway.

Ammonia is corrosive to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Rapid evaporation of the liquid may cause frostbite.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 @ 11:09 AM gHale

A fire at an oil tank farm in Brighton, CO, last Wednesday night forced evacuations of nearby residents, officials said.

The fire began just after 9 p.m. and forced evacuations before the flames were put out, said officials from the Brighton Fire Department.

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Brighton Fire crews found four oil and gas separators on fire.

Firefighters made sure all valves and oil flow into the air was shut off while they set up a rural water supply to protect the remaining equipment and tanks.

Firefighters say the property is owned by Great Western Oil and Gas.

No one was hurt, and the fire was put out just before 1 a.m.

The Brighton Fire Department is investigating the cause of the fire.

Thursday, September 21, 2017 @ 02:09 PM gHale

Fire rages at the Energy Transfer plant off Texas Beef Road in Sunray, TX, in this photo taken by a resident.

After a fire that broke out at the Energy Transfer plant off Texas Beef Road in Sunray, TX, late Saturday night, city officials said they still do not know how the fire started or where exactly in the plant it occurred.

The fire, they said, had to do with the gas they refine.

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“Some type of gas that they refine in the plant, but I’m not 100 percent sure on the type or where the fire was in the plant. I can tell you everyone that was at the facility has been accounted for, there is no injuries,” said Tommy Brooks, Moore County emergency management coordinator.

Emergency crews stayed on scene overnight to monitor the situation, they were sent home Sunday afternoon. No injuries were reported and the City of Sunray was not in any danger, although a perimeter was set up a mile around the plant. 

Tommy Brooks with the Moore County Office of Emergency Management explained to us Saturday night what kind of precautions were taken. 

“They’ve locked in all the pipes, pipelines going into the facility, once all that gas burns off, which will be several hours from now, they’ll go in and start doing air monitoring and assessments and well determine when we can open the area back up,” Brooks said. 

Energy Transfer crews were allowed on the scene this afternoon to assess the damage and start the clean-up process.