Fire reignites, air monitoring continues hours after Deer Park Shell facility fire extinguished

Sunday, May 7, 2023
Fire reignites hours after Deer Park Shell fire extinguished
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A fire reignited at the Shell Deer Park facility on Saturday after flames broke out along State Highway 225 on Friday.

DEER PARK, Texas (KTRK) -- Heavy plumes of smoke could be seen for miles from the Shell Deer Park facility Saturday morning hours after a fire that broke out on Friday was extinguished.

Shell representatives said they are experiencing yet another fire with visible smoke within one of their units.

"The incident is being handled within the boundaries of this facility, and there is no threat to the community from this incident. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause," their statement read, in part.

PEMEX Deer Park said although there is no fire at its units, its emergency response team is providing aid.

The Harris County Fire Marshal's Office said it is aware of the reignited fire and said it's at one of the same units from Friday. So far, officials say, no injuries have been reported as crews are working to put out the fire.

In a later update, Harris County officials said the fire is contained to the area as crews "focus on cooling and environmental mitigation to include proper containment of firefighting water."

WATCH: Air monitoring continued Saturday after Deer Park Shell fire 'extinguished'

According to the City of Deer Park, the remaining product reignited at about 3:14 p.m., as crews remained active to monitor for "hotspots" after the initial fire had been extinguished.

Officials said all employees and contractors have been accounted for, with no injuries reported.

Air monitoring is ongoing, and no harmful levels of chemicals have been detected in neighboring communities, city officials said, adding that there is no danger to residents who might notice black smoke, flaring, and a potential for increased noise from the facility.

SEE PREVIOUS REPORT: 'It doesn't look safe at all': Air quality concerns rise after Shell chemical plant fire in Deer Park

The fire first broke out in the olefins unit of a Shell plant at about 3 p.m. near the 5600 block of State Highway 225 on Friday. The Harris County Fire Marshal's Office believes it's the result of a leak, but the cause is still under investigation.

The company initially stated oil and gasoline ignited and sparked the fire. In an update on Saturday, the company said, "The cause of the fire will be the subject of a future investigation."

They have not provided a representative to go on-camera with ABC13 to provide further answers about the incident.

No shelter-in-place was issued by city and school officials despite an emergency response on Friday's fire. Authorities said an order was not placed due to the wind blowing away from the city.

Authorities said air monitoring is being conducted in the area. Shell maintains there is no threat to the community, and no harmful chemicals were detected. Air Alliance Houston refutes that claim writing in part, "History has shown that these early statements are for the benefit of industry public relations and not public health."

Shell said in an update that "current response activities may result in flaring or loud noises, and they will do their best to limit the duration."

"In this type of event, you can easily have a leak of product, and you can easily find an ignition source. Tools could be used to cause a spark if they have tools they're supposed to use that don't cause that. But it's going to be part of the investigation as we look to find what the sequence of events was prior to the fire that was initially described," Capt. James Singleton said.

The company said all workers on site were accounted for, including nine contractors who were evaluated at a hospital and later released.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said most of them got checked out as a precautionary measure, but the father of one of the workers told ABC13 that his son had burns from hot oil.

"The doctor says he's doing well. He's doing good, but I have seen a lot of the arms, the face all red. Red burns on his body. His face is red hot. His arms - everything, because the oil and the steam splashed everywhere in his body," Pablo Jasso, one of the worker's fathers, told Eyewitness News.

ABC13 spoke to Deer Park resident Laura Davis on the phone who lives three miles from the facility. She said she could feel rumblings in her window at about 4 a.m., presumably from the flare stacks at this plant.

She and her husband have lived in Deer Park for nearly 20 years and said they're used to hearing loud noises from the nearby chemical plants. But what she heard Saturday morning was different.

"It was a loud rumble, almost like a jet airplane hovering over your home," Davis said. "It was really frightening because it gave you this feeling of impending doom, like there might be an explosion coming next because it was so loud, extraordinarily loud."

One community member told ABC13 yesterday that these types of chemical plant fires are nothing new to the area.

Eyewitness News asked the Vice President of Energy and Innovation at the University of Houston, Dr. Ramanan Krishnamoorti, what residents in Deer Park should do when it comes to these types of incidents.

"One is if I bought an air-conditioned house or an apartment or a place where I can live, I would stay in place just because I don't want to be exposed to those hydrocarbons ... that incomplete, combusted hydrocarbons ... and the sun. And so I would stay in place. The second thing I would do is if I'm going to be on the road, I would find ways to avoid that neighborhood where the fire is," Krishnamoorti said.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Shell Deer Park fire: 9 contractors evaluated and released from hospital, the company says