Massive Fire and Explosion Rock Chemical Plant Near HoustonSource: NPR

A colossal fire at a chemical plant near Houston has triggered evacuations and raised safety concerns in the region.

Explosion Prompts Evacuations and Shelter-in-Place Orders

The incident began with a significant explosion at a chemical plant located in the town of Shepherd, just after 8 a.m. local time, as reported by San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers. While the explosion was a cause for alarm, there is a silver lining as all employees at the plant have been successfully accounted for, with only one worker sustaining a minor burn injury. The plant, owned by Sound Resource Solutions, had 19 employees on-site at the time of the incident.

Massive Fire and Explosion Rock Chemical Plant Near Houston
Source: NBC News

Additionally, a nearby private school housing 31 children was promptly evacuated, as per the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office. Meanwhile, residents of Livingston situated several miles north of Shepherd, have been advised to shelter in place and turn off their air conditioning systems until further notice, as confirmed by Livingston police.

Safety Concerns Surrounding the Chemical Plant Fire

The visual impact of the incident was striking, with dark black smoke billowing from the plant. The fire involved the burning of flammable liquids and diesel, intensifying the urgency of the situation.

Sound Resource Solutions, which is responsible for manufacturing solvents used in glue and paint removers, operates the affected plant. During a news briefing, Geoff Harfield, the company’s president, disclosed that one employee had suffered minor burns and was receiving treatment. He also reassured the public, stating that the company has been an integral part of the community since 2013, employing nearly 40 individuals, all of whom, aside from the injured employee, are now safe at home. First responders were commended for their cautious efforts and for ensuring the safety of everyone involved.

Safety Advisories Issued in the Area

The magnitude of the blaze prompted officials to issue a five-mile shelter-in-place warning, with an initial radius that was later reduced to one mile by 10:30 a.m. local time. Due to the explosion, Highway 59 has been closed, and locals are advised to seek alternative routes for their safety.

The Polk County Emergency Management Office expressed concerns about the plume of smoke generated by the explosion, emphasizing that it was heading toward the Livingston area. As a result, residents were urged to shelter in place and turn off HVAC systems in homes and businesses “immediately.” The effects of the chemicals in the air were reported to be unknown at the time, raising safety and health concerns.

Massive Fire and Explosion Rock Chemical Plant Near Houston
Source: Los Angeles Times

The Livingston Police Department echoed these concerns, encouraging residents and businesses to shelter in place and cease the use of air conditioning systems until further notice. The chemicals housed at the impacted plant were noted for their potential acute toxicity, carcinogenicity, and reproductive toxicity, while also posing risks of serious eye damage, eye irritation, skin corrosion, aspiration hazards, and organ toxicity. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the critical need for safety measures in the handling of hazardous chemicals within industrial facilities.

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