MRC -- A fire at a rural chemical distribution plant northeast of Houston was contained by 1 p.m. CDT, a county emergency services official said on Wednesday, as per Reuters.
County officials told residents within one mile of Sound Resource Solutions located 61 miles (99 km) northeast of Houston to shelter in homes and businesses as crews sprayed foam to extinguish burning chemicals contained in trucks and buildings in a rural area near Shepherd, Texas.
"We think the worst of this is done," said Emmitt Eldridge, emergency management coordinator for San Jacinto County where the plant is located. Schools north of the fire kept students inside during the morning because of the large black column of smoke that rose from the blaze.
The shelter-in-place zone was originally five miles, but was later reduced in size. The fire began following an accident involving a fork lift, said Geoff Harfield, owner of Sound Resource Solutions. The fork lift operator was being treated at Houston hospital for burns, Harfield said.
"He's going to be home with his family this evening," he said. Officials said about 19 people were working at the facility when the fire began shortly after 8 a.m. All had been accounted for. Sound Resource Solutions blends, packages and distributes oilfield and other industrial chemicals including sulfuric acid, acetone and petrochemicals like xylene and toluene, according to the company's website.
U.S. Highway 59 was closed between Shepherd and Livingston, Texas because of the fire, according to media reports. Rural Texas communities have been frequent sites of chemical plant explosions and fires.
We remind, in 2013, 15 people were killed and 160 injured in a fertilizer storage facility explosion in the town of West, Texas. In 2017, industrial peroxide at an Arkema storage site in Crosby, Texas exploded during Hurricane Harvey. Four towns in east Texas were evacuated when a TPC Group butadiene plant exploded in Port Neches, Texas in 2018.