A fire that started late Sunday morning at Intercontinental Terminals Company’s (ITC) Deer Park facility could take two days to burn out, according to officials. The fire began just before 11 a.m. in a tank that contains NAPHTHA, a flammable hydrocarbon liquid used in various types of fuels. Shortly after the first tank caught fire, another tank containing toluene ignited. Toluene is a water-insoluble liquid used in paint thinners and nail polish remover. Both chemicals are deadly if they are swallowed or inhaled.
The situation worsened overnight when the flames spread to five more tanks in the facility. According to ITC, these tanks contain gas blend stocks used to make gasoline and base oil used for machine lubricants. Images of the scene show plumes of black smoke billowing from the facility as fire crews work to contain the flames. Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.
About 30 employees were working at the plant when the fire started. All workers are accounted for, and none have reported any injuries. Officials closed SH-255 in both directions from Beltway 8 to Independence Parkway, but the road has reopened. Additionally, officials lifted a mandatory shelter-in-place for the entire city of Deer Park.
What does Intercontinental Terminals Company Do?
Intercontinental Terminals Company stores a variety of petrochemical liquids and gases. It also stores various types of fuel, bunker oil, and distillates. According to its website, its Deer Park facility has 242 storage tanks with the ability to hold 13,058,136 barrels of liquid. The company has locations in Texas, Louisiana, and Belgium. The Deer Park facility is the company's largest facility with about 270 workers.
What Are the Dangers Presented by the Fire?
"Although the risk of explosion is minimal, we continue to take precautions to further reduce this possibility," ITC said in a statement.
The company went on to say that it is monitoring the levels of particulate matters in the area. It revealed that "low levels of particulate matter have been detected. A single volatile organic compound detection has been found six miles southwest of the facility. These readings are currently well below hazardous levels."
Harris County Public Health released a statement warning of health effects from a chemical fire. The statement warned those near the fire to look for symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, burning, irritation, and redness to the eyes, nose, and throat. Residents and responders were urged by the statement to seek immediate medical attention if they suffer from any of these symptoms.