Large industrial fire near Hockley prompts evacuations

HOCKLEY, Texas -- A large fire at an industrial facility ignited Saturday, and firefighters from multiple agencies were on the scene as people were being warned to avoid the area.

It happened around 9:30 a.m. in the 17300 block of Premium Drive near Hockley at a recycling and waste facility, just south of the Hockley Recreational Complex off Old Washington Road.

Firefighters from multiple departments were dispatched to a large building where thick smoke billowed into the sky, and could be seen from a far as 15 miles away.

The fire began when steel drums fell over inside the facility that handles recycled plastics and other petrochemical materials, according to Harris County Fire Marshal spokesperson Rachel Neutzler.

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The fire at the waste management facility started around 9:30 a.m. Saturday and prompted authorities to order a half-mile radius evacuation.

The fire spread to other portions of the building and grew into a massive incident due in part to a lack of a water supply for firefighters. Dozens of tanker trucks were dispatched to unload water for the suppression efforts which were expected to continue for hours Saturday.

Neutzler said there were no specific details on the chemicals involved, but said the substances, believed to be used motor oil and plastics, were part of the facility's mission to convert materials for recycling or incineration.

"It's a number of different chemicals, but nothing stored in large amounts," she said.

While the immediate threat didn't appear to be grave, the evacuation order would remain in effect until crews could contain the incident and on-going air quality monitoring showed the air quality was safe.

No injuries were reported at the site, Neutzler said.

The fire is at VLS Recovery Services, a waste management company with two facilities in the area, including a railcar cleaning facility and a solid waste processing facility.

As firefighters worked to contain the flames, rail crews were also dispatched to move a group of rail cars out of the adjacent yard.

Waller police closed multiple roads, including Old Washington Road and US 290 Business between Kickapoo Road and Kermier Road.