Superior student films documentary about 2018 refinery fire

Jayme Ivy, a sophomore at Superior High School, has set out to chronicle the community’s response to the fire from a variety of angles.

Jayme Ivy, right, talks with a fellow student as they work on the webcast for the Spartan Spin
Jayme Ivy, right, talks with a fellow student as they work on the webcast for the Spartan Spin journalism class in the lunchroom just outside of the gym at Superior High School on Wednesday, Nov. 2.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — A Superior High School sophomore is turning their lens on the 2018 explosion and fire at the Superior refinery.

At the time of the incident, Jayme Ivy was 11 years old. Now 16, they have been traveling around the city by bike to film b-roll and interviews. Using minimal tools — a cell phone, tripod, elastic hair band and editing software — and their own passion, Ivy has set out to chronicle the community’s response to the fire from a variety of angles. She plans to air the result, “Superior Strong: The Superior Refinery Explosion,” by April 2023 for the five-year anniversary of the event.

It will not be graded; it’s not for a class.

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Jayme Ivy, a Superior High School sophomore, takes b-roll footage of the holding tanks at the Cenovus Refinery from along Hill Avenue in Superior on Wednesday, Oct. 26.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

“I guess my intention for creating this project was to educate myself further, which I think I’ve already done a lot of; practice my journalistic skills, because one of my future goals is to be a broadcast journalist, and ... I love writing down stories in my own way,” Ivy said.

The refinery fire was big news, even making national newscasts, but then coverage stopped, Ivy said. She wants to tell the rest of the story.


“I really want the project to just focus on the strength of the city and its fire department and cooperation between the refinery and the fire department, and the amazing response of the police department,” Ivy said.

And she wants to bring it to a bigger audience.

“The people in this city know already. They’ve seen the courageousness of everybody,” the sophomore said. “I kind of want this to reach people beyond Superior so that they can see.”

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With a bike, tripod and cell phone, Superior High School sophomore Jayme Ivy sets up a shot of the Cenovus Energy refinery along Hill Avenue in Superior. The 16-year-old is working on a news documentary about the 2018 refinery explosion and fire that led to an evacuation of much of Superior.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

The project is something Ivy’s been interested in since 2019. It started gaining steam June 8 when she interviewed Superior Mayor Jim Paine. Five days later, the teen spoke with members of the Superior Fire Department.

“She had really interesting questions, wanting to get down to what we did that day, what worked for us and what went well,” said Battalion Chief Camron Vollbrecht.

Later in the summer, Ivy asked Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander about how it looked and felt for the police department that day.

“She was very thorough. She came prepared,” the chief said. “We had an enjoyable meeting.”

Ivy was professional and bright, they said, and both of them appreciated her multi-faceted approach to the project.


During the event, Vollbrecht was laser focused on fighting the fire.

“As responders, I think it’s important for us to understand how the rest of the community reacts and experiences those things,” he said. “So it’s easier for us to show compassion.”

The project was inspired by the incident itself. Ivy, 11, was living in Superior when the fire happened.

Documentary filmmaker Jayme Ivey poses with a camera
Documentary filmmaker Jayme Ivy poses with a camera in the lunchroom just outside of the gym at Superior High School on Wednesday, Nov. 2.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“I was focused on my mom’s panicking and I didn’t really know what was going on. The most I got to see before I turned on the news was looking out the window,” Ivy said. “I turned on the news and I got to see a lot more than what I could see from my window. That’s where it hit me, ‘ Oh, journalism can actually like do something with people’s lives.’”

YouTube became Ivy’s classroom as she sought out content like “a day in the life of a multimedia journalist” or “a day in the life of a news photographer,” where they showcase the skills needed to film and edit a story.

This school year, Ivy took the Spartan Spin journalism class specifically to work on the weekly webcast. English teacher Elise Hintzman, who teaches the class with Christa Kalin, was impressed when Ivy told her about the documentary she’s been working on.

“A student like Jayme makes me very excited, because I think it’s kind of unique that at such a young age that they already kind of have this passion of what they might do as their future career, and that they’re taking initiative on it," Hintzman said. "They’re actually going out and doing things that their teacher is not even assigning them to practice those skills and hone in those skills for what they eventually will clearly be successful at in their future.”

Vollbrecht said he’s looking forward to watching Ivy’s finished documentary. They may even have a watch party at the station.


“As we get closer to the facility opening back up, there’s going to be some anxiety in our community and we may get questions on that, so it’s good to be prepared and remember what we did and what that was like,” Vollbrecht said.

Roughly a third of the fire department has been hired in the last five years, he said. They weren’t involved in fighting the refinery fire.

“That’s a big lesson for us is we have to pass on what we learned to a lot of new people,” Vollbrecht said.

Spartan Spin

The first print edition of this year's Superior High School student newspaper, the Spartan Spin, will be distributed Friday, Nov. 11, according to Hintzman. Roughly 60 students in the class launched their first weekly webcast Oct. 28 and continue to post new stories online at and on Instagram.

Superior students spin into broadcast journalism

The webcast is helmed by a core team of Spartan Spin students that includes Ivy. Hintzman said the webcast, which was new last school year, is a cool element to add.

“It’s a great way also for people to not only see the faces of the Spartan Spin, but then get them to go to our website, get them excited for when our print edition comes out,” Hintzman said.

It also gives students a chance to hone their skills. The new format for the webcast gives viewers a series of individual segments on different happenings at the school, some of them filmed at different locations.

"They have completely blown my expectations away," Hintzman said of the webcast team.


New this year is the ability to pay for a Spartan Spin subscription through the website. Those with subscriptions will receive a copy of the student newspaper through the mail.

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Jayme Ivy, a Superior High School sophomore, sets up a tripod with a cell phone along Hill Avenue on Wednesday, Oct. 26, to take b-roll footage of the holding tanks at the Cenovus Energy refinery in Superior. Ivy is working on a news documentary about the explosion and fire that took place at the Superior refinery in 2018.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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