DEER PARK, Texas (FOX 26) - After three days, company officials say all of the tank fires at the Intercontinental Terminals Company Deer Park facility have finally been extinguished.
Firefighters were forced to spray foam during a flare-up of flames and black smoke early on Wednesday evening.
According to ITC, firefighting crews report all of the tank fires are out as of 3 a.m. Wednesday. ITC says crews will continue to spray foam and water to facilitate cooling and prevent reigniting. Steam and smoke may still be visible and the possibility of reigniting exists, ITC says.
All three of the Port of Houston fire boats were used to pump water directly from the ship channel, providing water to the countless fire units responding to the flames. In the end, no major injuries were reported.
ITC officials are updating the numbers on Wednesday, and they say 11 tanks were burned in total. The tanks contained components of gasoline, including pygas, xylene, naphtha, a gas blend, and base oil.
Firefighters were ultimately able to prevent four tanks from catching fire, including one containing toluene, despite having to reduce water pressure Monday which caused the fire to spread.
With the fire now out, school will be back in session on Thursday for the districts that canceled classes due to the fire. Those included Pasadena, Deer Park, La Porte, Galena Park, Sheldon and San Jacinto College.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released an update Wednesday morning saying there will be continuous air monitoring as clean-up operations begin:
After the successful extinguishing of the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) fire at the Deer Park facility, public safety continues to be our foremost concern. There will be continuous air monitoring as clean-up operations begin, and as the monitoring shows extended favorable conditions, the monitoring will focus closer to the incident site. This means increased monitoring around the facility for the type of chemicals involved in the incident itself. If there is any indication of a threat to public safety, there will be immediate notification from local emergency management officials.
In a 1 p.m. Wednesday update, Harris County Public Health said the current health risk remains low for the general population and those who may be more at risk. The public can view air quality data at www.readyharris.org/deerparkfire.
Officials encourage anyone who believes they may be suffering health symptoms due to the fire to contact their health care provider.
ITC says no serious injuries were reported as a result of the incident.
In a Wednesday morning update, ITC also said, in part, "We continue to prioritize the safety of our surrounding community, our employees and the environment."
The fire at the ITC Deer Park facility began around 10:22 a.m. Sunday. For three days, firefighting crews used foam and water to battle the fires.
An air emission event report released on Tuesday evening states the cause of the fire as a leak.
"There was a leak that occurred in the 80-8 manifold. The release ignited, resulting in a fire within the manifold, involving Tank 80-8 and other adjacent tanks as well."
During a press conference on Tuesday at 4 p.m., ITC confirmed that eight tanks total were still on fire. On Tuesday night, Harris County announced that fire was down to four tanks.
The fire spread overnight on Monday, after firefighters lost some water pressure Monday evening. The water pressure was restored, and firefighters worked to protect the final three tanks from catching fire.
Two of the new tanks that caught fire on Monday contain pyrolysis gasoline, or pygas. An additional 2 tanks that were empty from the start collapsed under the heat of the fire.
The Houston Health Department is conducting air monitoring in neighborhoods near the Deer Park fire. Anyone who is unusually sensitive to air pollution should be aware that they may be at moderate risk for health complications, according to the EPA Air Quality Index.
On Tuesday, the City of Deer Park assured no evacuations or new shelter-in-place orders were issued for the city. The City of Deer Park released this update:
"As of Tuesday morning, March 19, the City has several updates regarding the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) fire response. The situation continues to evolve and updated information will be provided periodically.
In response to questions and community concerns regarding possible evacuations, the City would like to assure the community that NO evacuations of the City of Deer Park have been ordered at this time.
As well, no new Shelter-in-Place orders have been issued for the City of Deer Park. All air quality reports the City has received indicate that the air quality is favorable, and monitoring is being conducted continually.
The City has created a dedicated webpage – www.deerparktx.gov/itcfire - which citizens may utilize to get up-to-date press releases, City updates, air quality reports from ITC as well as state entities including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and more."
Harris County Public Health released this statement on Monday:
"We are aware of the ongoing chemical plant fire at Deer Park. Our greatest public health concern is for the health and safety of those involved; affected workers, those who live in the area, first responders, etc. Exposures to chemicals may cause negative health effects. The most common symptoms are coughing, difficulty breathing, burning, irritation, and redness of your eyes, nose and throat. Individuals may also experience headaches, nausea, or dizziness.
The elderly, children, and those who have respiratory issues may be adversely impacted. Please seek medical attention if you are experiencing these symptoms or if they worsen. We are continuing to work with the Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, Harris County Pollution Control, Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office and other partners to monitor the ongoing situation."
Harris County has launched an air quality data web page to provide air quality information related to the Deer Park fire. The following statement was released on Monday evening:
"Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HCOHSEM) have launched a web page on the ReadyHarris.org website to provide air quality information related to the Deer Park fire.
In response to the Deer Park fire at Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), we are focused on keeping Harris County residents informed about the air quality in potentially affected areas,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “At this point, no abnormal air quality levels have been detected.
HCOHSEM and response partners will continue to update the website with additional air quality and other information over the coming days.
In addition to air quality information, the website includes updates from other sources, including Harris County Public Health. To access the website, please go to: www.readyharris.org/deerparkfire."
In addition, ITC has established a claims hotline and website for businesses and individuals following the fire incident. If you believe you have suffered damage or loss as a result of the incident, you can go to www.itcclaims.com. Submit the claim form and supporting documents to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or to the following physical address:
March 17, 2019 Incident
P.O. Box 698
Deer Park, TX 77536
The ITCCares hotline is also available at 346-263-9766.
City officials lifted the shelter in place for Deer Park on Monday morning. Deer Park officials said the city "received confirmation that no air quality readings conducted in response to the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) incident have exceeded action levels."
State Highway 225 has been reopened. Portions of Independence Parkway remain closed.
The Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) started in 1972 and currently has 13.1 million barrels capacity in 242 tanks. It stores a variety of petrochemical liquids and gases, as well as fuel oil, bunker oil and distillates. The terminal has five ship docks and ten barge docks, rail and truck access, as well as multiple pipeline connection.