A chemical fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company facility located
on Independence Parkway in Deer Park began burning late in the morning
on March 17, 2019. 30 ITC employees were on the scene at the time the
blaze started. According to company officials, the employees have all
been accounted for as of this time. ITC hasn’t issued any information
about possible exposure of employees to the chemical fire or to gasses
that are emitted as a result of the blaze.
The burning chemical at the Deer Park ITC plant is naphtha, which is a
component of gasoline. Since the fire started just before noon, it has
burned out of control despite the efforts of ITC personnel and local firefighters
to contain it.
Black smoke immediately started to arise from the Deer Park ITC facility
and has stretched upward and outward as the fire continues to burn out
of control. The Deer Park, Texas, Office of Emergency Management (Deer
Park OEM) nearly immediately issued a shelter in place order for all of
Deer park. Residents were directed to stay in their homes.
Deer Park OEM further advises that State Highway 225 beginning at Beltway
8 to Independence Parkway is closed. At this time, there no determination
has been made as to when the roadway will open.
Deer Park OEM announced at 5:00 p.m. on March 19 that the agency had yet
to issue an evacuation order for residents of the city of Deer Park. According
to Deer Park OEM, the fire at the ITC plant was not yet under control
with the approach of the evening. Management of ITC announced late in
the afternoon that despite the fire not being under control at the company’s
Deer Park facility, the fire itself had not spread.
Although an evacuation order has not been issued and remains a possibility,
the Deer Park OEM advises that the city of Deer Park remains under a shelter
in place directive. Residents of the community are directed not to leave
their homes pending further notification from the Deer Park OEM. Again,
emergency management personnel advise that an evacuation order may yet
issue to some or all of the residents of Deer Park.
Deer Park OEM also announced at the end of the afternoon that air monitoring
was ongoing in and around Deer Park by Harris County Pollution and Harris
County HAZMAT. As of 5:30 p.m., the results of that monitoring were not
yet available. The air monitoring results will dictate whether a full-scale
evacuation of the some or all of the community is necessary.
Naphtha, the chemical burning at the Deer Park ITC facility, is described
as a flammable oil that contains different types of hydrocarbons. Naphtha
is obtained via what is known as the dry distillation of organic substances
that include petroleum, coal, and shale.
Naphtha is a dangerous compound. Naphtha itself, and the chemicals contained
in gasses emitted by burning naphtha, have carcinogenic properties. In
other words, exposure to naphtha (including exposure to gasses emitted
from burning naphtha) has been demonstrated to cause cancer in some individuals.
Exposure to the smoke and gasses emitted from the fire can cause other
health conditions and issues as well. In addition, the exposure to 1000
parts per million (or ppm) of naphtha can be deadly.
Although ITC thus far hasn’t announced any injuries at the company’s
facility in Deer Park, injuries associated with exposure to gasses from
the yet-to-be-contained fire may not be known until a point in time in
the future. This includes injuries and health conditions that might develop
among employees of the ITC facility on duty during the fire as well as
others in the surrounding community who may have been exposed to smoke
and gasses emitted from the facility because of the fire.
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Deer Park OEM is to continue to issue updates regarding the Deer Park ITC
fire until the situation at the facility is fully contained. The agency
is utilizing Twitter and local media outlets to provide information to
residents of Deer Park and immediately surrounding areas that may be impacted
by the Deer Park ITC fire.