Crews work to control fire at Texas petrochemicals plant that spread to storage tanks

HOUSTON (AP) — A large fire at a Houston-area petrochemicals terminal will likely burn for another two days, authorities said Monday, noting that air quality around the facility was testing within normal guidelines.

The fire erupted Sunday at Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) southeast of Houston. Firefighters were working to control the blaze, and the company said the risk of explosion remained “minimal.”

ITC has said all employees have been accounted for and no injuries have been reported. A huge plume of smoke could be seen for miles, including from the Galveston Ferry, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of the blaze.

The company said the fire spread to seven storage tanks holding components of gasoline and also used in nail polish remover, glues and paint thinner. ITC initially said the fire had spread to eight tanks, but company official David Wascome scaled back the number Monday, saying one of the tanks was empty.

Wascome said company officials continue to monitor air quality in the area.

“As of this time, they’re still within normal range,” he said Monday.

A shelter-in-place order was issued Sunday for residents of Deer Park. The order was lifted early Monday after air-quality tests showed no unsafe levels of chemicals, according to the city.

But city and county officials warned that smoke from the fire could cause skin and eye irritation, and respiratory issues. Schools in the area were closed Monday as a precaution.

Fire crews used foam to protect storage tanks that have not caught on fire

“We are controlling the fire and keeping it off the rest of the tanks,” said Ray Russell with Channel Industries Mutual Aid, an organization that coordinates rescue and emergency capabilities of the local petrochemical industry.

Russell estimated the fire would burn for another two days. He said firefighters were now in a defensive mode.

Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen said investigators from her office are on the scene of the fire and are still determining a cause of the blaze.

The fire was the second in as many days at a Houston-area petrochemical facility. A fire at an ExxonMobil plant in nearby Baytown that broke out Saturday has been contained.

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