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Massive fire engulfs tanks at Texas plant

Posted at 7:52 AM, Mar 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-18 09:52:33-04

DEER PARK, Texas – A large fire at Intercontinental Terminals Company in La Porte continued to burn overnight into Monday morning, spreading to an additional six tanks, a company update says.

As of the company’s latest update a total of eight tanks were on fire. Firefighters are in defensive mode, using foam to prevent the fire from spreading.

After overnight air quality tests, a shelter-in-place for the Deer Park area has been lifted, but La Porte ISD and Deer Park ISD have canceled classes for the day. San Jacinto College says classes and offices will be open as normal for the day.

In Houston, some residents said they could smell the smoke in the early morning hours. KHOU 11 Meteorologist Chita Craft says the winds are very calm, and clouds are trapping the smoke closer to the ground.

ITC says the tanks on fire hold Naphtha, which was the original product burning. We’re told the fire spread to more tanks, at least one of which contains Xylene. Both of those identified substances are components of gasoline.

“Air monitoring continues and as of this update, no detectable amounts of the chemicals have been found outside the ITC fence line,” stated ITC Monday morning.

“As of 5:30 a.m., the City of Deer Park has received confirmation that no air quality readings conducted in response to the Intercontinental Terminals Company incident have exceeded action levels,” stated the office of emergency management. “In light of this information, the City has made the decision to lift the Shelter-in-Place order and to re-open State Highway 225 with the public. Portions of Independence Parkway will remain closed until further notice.”

The road closure includes all access points including Center Street.

As of Sunday, their hope was to let chemicals burn off enough, then turn off a valve to let the fire die down.

Harris County pollution and HazMat are evaluating the air quality. So far, the pollution levels around the site are not elevated, but officials will continue to monitor them as the fire is expected to burn through the night.

Evacuations have not been ordered, but Harris County officials are ready to help if they are.

“Precinct 2 is standing by and ready to provide shelters to get people out of harm’s way,” Commissioner Adrian Garcia said at a news conference.