Houston, Texas: Crews have extinguished a fire that’s burned for days at a Houston-area petrochemicals storage facility. International Terminals Company says the blaze in Deer Park was extinguished as of 3 a.m. Wednesday.
The fire began Sunday at the facility southeast of Houston, sending a huge, dark plume of smoke thousands of feet in the air, though officials said air quality remained safe.
ITC says crews will continue to spray foam and water on the storage tanks that caught fire to cool them down and prevent the fire from reigniting.
The company says steam and smoke will be visible, and the fire could still flare back up.
The tanks that caught fire contained components of gasoline and materials used in nail polish remover, glues and paint thinner.
On Tuesday, various officials stood firm on the public safety aspect of the large plume of black smoke hovering over southeast Texas. Despite the various chemicals being burned, both state and ITC officials said there was nothing toxic in the smoke in spite of reports of small debris falling.
Meanwhile, several school districts near the facility cancelled classes due to the ITC fires.
Some of the districts include Deer Park ISD, Channelview ISD and La Porte ISD. San Jacinto College also cancelled classes today.
HISD released a statement saying that district officials continue to monitor air quality reports but will be operating under normal schedules.
During a press conference Tuesday morning, ITC apologized to the community as concerns grew tremendously since the fires started Sunday around 10:30 a.m.
“This isn’t an event we wanted or planned. Many of my employees work in the city of Deer Park, they live in Deer Park, they’re out there fighting this fire the best they can,” ITC spokeswoman Alice Richardson explained.
“They are residents. I would guess that probably 30 percent live in Deer Park in La Porte. They’re concerned. Their families are concerned, so of course ITC would apologize to any of them,” Richardson continued.
The company claims testing done by independent contractor CTEH are below levels that would represent a public health concern.
ITC officials say the first tank that caught fire Sunday contained NAPHTHA. The fire then spread to a second tank with XYLENE. Both are gasoline components.
Officials said the components are in gas blend stocks used in the production of finished gasoline and base oil used for machine lubrication.
NAPHTHA can cause irritation to eyes and the respiratory system. It affects the central nervous system and is harmful and even fatal if it is swallowed.
XYLENE may also be fatal if it is swallowed and enters the airway. It can cause skin irritation.
Another tank that caught fire early Monday morning contained Toluene, which is used in nail polish remover, glue and paint thinner, plant officials told Eyewitness News.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Toluene is used in many products and workplaces like printing operations, manufacturing facilities, construction sites and nail salons.
The Deer Park Office of Emergency Management released a message on social media about a hotline people can call because of an increase of claims following the incident at ITC.
No serious injuries have been reported as a result of the incident. ITC officials said they are continuing to monitor the air, but as of Wednesday’s update, readings are currently well below hazardous level.
“We continue to prioritize the safety of our surrounding community, our employees and the environment,” the ITC statement read.