Three Days Later, Texas Chemical Plant Fire Extinguished

A plume of smoke rises from a petrochemical fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company on Monday in Deer Park, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

HOUSTON (CN) – A fire that erupted Sunday at a petrochemical storage plant near Houston and sent dark plumes of smoke over the city was extinguished early Wednesday morning, but the plant operator warned residents it could spark back up. 

Intercontinental Terminals Company has not said what caused the fire that engulfed eight storage tanks at its plant in Deer Park, 20 miles southeast of downtown Houston.

Though there have been no reported injuries from the fire, neighboring residents are understandably concerned about their respiratory health and the company said the tanks may continue to smoke Wednesday.

“As of 3:00 a.m. today, the firefighting crews on the scene of the ITC Tank Farm Fire are reporting that all tank fires have been extinguished. Crews continue to spray foam and water on the tanks to facilitate cooling and prevent reigniting of the remaining material,” the company said in a statement.

Harris County and Houston officials said at a news conference Tuesday that monitors show the air quality at ground level is safe, though the blaze led several school districts to cancel classes Monday and Wednesday.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged residents not to panic about the plume that meteorologists said had reached heights of 4,000 to 6,200 feet, so high it posed no risk to human health.

“I know the cloud of dark smoke seems ominous as it spreads over parts of the city of Houston, but we want to assure that the air quality is being monitored around the clock,” he said.

The tanks contained hydrocarbons used to produce gasoline, nail polish remover and paint thinner.

Harris County Flood Control District meteorologist Jeff Lindner told local media the fire was so big it had altered wind patterns, just as massive wildfires do, and there were reports Tuesday of hazy skies from the fire as far as the city of Bryan, 100 miles northwest of Houston.

Firefighters are still on site because the remaining chemicals are highly volatile, Intercontinental Terminals Company said.

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