13 Investigates: As tank fire rages, answers incomplete

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the tank fire at Intercontinental Terminals Company filled the sky above Deer Park, Dan Hooks sat below it taking it all in.

"It's not good," Hooks, a nearby resident, offered to 13 Investigates' Ted Oberg. "I'm pretty sure they will let it burn itself out."

Intercontinental Terminal (ITC) admits that's really the only strategy at this point.

Randy Russell, with CIMA, an industry emergency response coalition told reporters, "It is going to have to burn out in that tank or until we complete draining the tank."

Officials had removed 550,000 gallons of Naphtha from the first tank that caught fire Sunday. Five others remained on fire. It's unclear if any of the others were being drained.

That detail was never mentioned once in any of ITC's seven press releases since the fire first started. It could be Wednesday before it's out. In fact, the press releases mentioned that firefighting efforts were designed to ensure it didn't spread.

'TAKE ABOUT 5 QUESTIONS'

Details proved hard to get from the company. Calls to the media line were left unreturned. A company spokesperson started the Q & A portion of one press conference Monday morning telling reporters, "We're going to take about five questions."

It took ITC 5 hours to announce that Naphtha was the chemical in the first tank burning Sunday. Never once did the company hint they knew all along this fire could spread to multiple tanks.

'DON'T WALK AWAY'

After that, Wascome and Harris County officials walked away from reporters.

Monday, the company filed a report with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality listing a leak in a manifold as the cause of the fire. Neither the report or a subsequent news conference provided any more answers on that.

Public records don't provide much more clarity on the facility. The company's Tier 2 chemical inventory was not immediately available from Deer Park or Harris County.

Deer Park did release the company's most recently filed Emergency Response Plan. The company clearly has plans to fight a tank fire, but the only plan on file with the City of Deer Park lists only pipeline issues, nothing about a tank fire that could burn for three days.

Back in the shadow of the still climbing smoke plume, Oberg asked Hooks, "What responsibility do these companies have to us who live and work in the Houston area?" Hooks succinctly replied, "To keep us safe."

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