CROSBY, Texas. - Where there's smoke.....there's fire! And that could be an explosive problem for authorities trying to secure delicate chemicals at the Arkema, Inc. chemical plant in Crosby.
Officials are bracing for the possibility of more explosions after reported pops from a failed refrigerated container of a hazardous chemical led to plumes of smoke early Thursday.
According to officials, there are 36,000 pounds of liquid organic peroxide in nine containers at the plant.
"The smoke plume, we understand, was 30 to 40 feet in the air, and they could see visible flames coming out of the container," Richard Rennard of Arkema Group announced during a press conference. "Is that the extent of what could happen? We just can't predict."
At least 15 Harris County deputies were taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes from the smoke coming from the plant, but eight have already been released, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
"We believe the smoke is a non-toxic irritant," Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told reporters. "The Fire Marshal's Office plan from the beginning was to allow this fire to burn itself out. Firefighters are taking a defensive posture to prevent it from spreading."
"The concern is that when these things degrade, they generate heat," Rennard added. "When they generate heat, they can burn. When they burn-- if they burn aggressively-- you can have an explosion."
Police have established a mile and a half perimeter around the plant to keep the public safe, and residents were ordered to evacuate after the plant lost power to refrigerate the delicate chemicals due to the excessive flooding.
"I'm not concerned," resident Precious Grant said. "No, we're fine."
"I'm concerned," another resident Joseph Reed commented. "You know, it's something for everybody to be concerned about."
For now....everyone in the area is hoping for the best......but bracing for the worst!