Fire breaks out at Valero plant

December 24, 2009 3:08:09 PM PST
For the second time in a month, there has been an explosion at the Valero energy refinery in Texas City. It happened around 5am Thursday and the fire burned for hours. The refinery is up and running with the exception of the unit where the fire occurred. An investigative team spent much of the afternoon surveying the site to determine exactly how much damage was done.

The bright orange flames poured from a unit that processes crude oil at the facility. It caught fire around 5:30am Thursday. It's the second incident this month at the plant and it's making residents in the surrounding neighborhood a little nervous.

"We could see the smoke, just a little bit of it," said nearby resident Jamie Kvochick. "We heard the alarms, all the alarms. We were wondering what was going on."

While units like the one that burned are staffed with personnel 24 hours a day, no one was hurt. Emergency responders had the main fire under control in about 15 minutes. They let a second smaller fire burn itself out. Air quality checks were conducted as a precaution.

"Fortunately for us, the wind was blowing out towards the bay, not towards the community, so there were no residual effects on the community at all," said Valero Spokesman Fred Newhouse.

Earlier this month, a worker was killed during an explosion at this very same plant after a boiler failed. While the two incidents happened at two separate locations, both are being investigated.

Concerned residents, some who've lived near the plant for years, say Valero is a good neighbor. But then again...

"If I could, I'd move away from here," said nearby resident Zelte Samuels.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Investigators say they're also looking into the possibility that the overnight storms played a role.


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