DEER PARK, Texas — Thick, black plumes of smoke continued to stretch across parts of the Deer Park and La Porte areas Tuesday morning following a multiple-tank fire that ignited at the local Intercontinental Terminal Companies plant over the weekend.
The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office has been waiting it out, expecting the chemicals fueling the fire to run out or firefighters to subdue the flames using water and foam. On Monday, fire marshals declared the incident “controlled.”
As of Tuesday morning, the plant has been burning for two straight days.
Due to a temporary reduction of water pressure, the company confirmed the fire intensified overnight and expanded to an additional two empty chemical tanks— bumping the total number of containers effected to eight.
“The water pressure has been restored and responders have been able to fully resume their efforts to fight the fire,” ITC officials said in a statement. “Additional response resources have been contracted to assist with the effort to put additional water and foam on the fire.”
Those backup resources are expected to be operational by 8 a.m. Tuesday, the company said. The city of Deer Park confirmed no air quality readings conducted in response to the fire have exceeded action levels.
Despite numerous emails and calls from concerned parents, Deer Park and La Porte ISDs students and teachers will return to school Tuesday. In a report, administrators reassured parents the air quality is safe and with lower winds to push the smoke into the districts' direction, the air should be relatively clearer.
“We’ll continue monitoring the air quality in and around the area in several locations,” ITC Vice President of Operations Davis Wascome said at a press conference Monday morning. “As of this time, they’re still within normal range. It’s something that we’re monitoring.”
Firefighters have been using foam to control the fire after it started about 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the ITC Deer Park plant on Tidal Road near N. Independence Parkway.
The fire involved the burning of two chemicals identified as naphtha and xylene, both of which are gasoline components, according to county officials. These chemicals are commonly found in nail polish remover and paint thinner.
The official cause of the fire remains under investigation. In the meantime, firefighters and the company will monitor the fire until the fuel is completely removed or dissipates from the tanks, officials said.
About 30 employees were working at the time of the incident and all have been accounted for, officials said. No injuries have been reported.
Monday, the incident led to precautionary district-wide school closures for both Deer Park and La Porte ISDs. A shelter-in-place order was issued for the area but was lifted on Monday morning.
The incident also resulted in the closure of State Highway 225 to the public. The freeway has since been reopened.