A large blaze at an ExxonMobil refinery located in Baytown resulted in a large plum of potentially hazardous smoke spreading over the neighborhoods surrounding the plant mid-morning on Wednesday, July 31. The smoke is expanding in its reach and has the prospect of not only spreading across Baytown but also into the city of Houston itself.
The fire erupted in a unit at the refinery that contains polypropylene, a chemical that can present health risks to people exposed to it. As a consequence, officials in the Baytown area have directed people in the vicinity of the ExxonMobil plant to shelter in place. If the potentially hazardous smoke plume expands, the shelter in place order may be expanded and extended.
The exact cause of the fire has not yet been released by company officials or emergency personnel. As of noon on the day the fire erupted, officials had not reported that an explosion caused the blaze. With that said, a worker in a unit directly next to the location of the fire texted out to a family member that an explosion did occur in the unit in question.
The fire appears to have started in what is known as a distillation column attached to the polypropylene unit in question. Fire fighting personnel dispatched to the scene initially focused on containing the blaze to the unit in which it broke out.
After a couple hours into the event, no major injuries or fatalities were reported from the scene. With that said, three workers were reported to have sustained more minor injuries and transported themselves to an area hospital. An ongoing concern into the future will be whether exposure to the smoke plume generated by the blaze will negative impact the health of workers at the plant or others in the community exposed to the burn.
Problems at the Baytown ExxonMobil Plant
The Baytown ExxonMobil refinery is one of the largest plants of its kind in the world. The July 31 blaze at the Baytown ExxonMobil refinery is not the first issue at the plant in recent times involving potentially harmful emissions into the air. OSHA fined the ExxonMobil refinery a couple of years ago in regard to an employee or employees being exposed to harmful emissions at the plant.
The facility was fined two other rimes in the past couple of years by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for harmful emissions. TCEQ is the Texas equivalent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.
Intensive Air Quality Monitoring Underway
Intensive air quality monitoring commenced within an hour of the start of the Baytown ExxonMobil refinery fire. No immediate reports on air quality were released by the official monitors. In addition to the shelter in place order, officials directed area residents and business owners to close windows and doors and turn off air conditioners to prevent smoke from entering into inhabited premises.
Baytown ExxonMobil Refinery Fire: Third Major Fire Incident in Houston Area
The Baytown ExxonMobil refinery represents the third major incident of this nature in the Houston area in 2019. An explosion and fire at a chemical plant in Crosby resulted in one fatality. Another explosion at a petrochemical plant in Deer Park resulted in a fierce fire that burned for days. As is the case with the Baytown ExxonMobil refinery fire, both of these earlier incidents resulted in large plumes of smoke that contained potentially hazardous materials.
Potential Long-Term Consequences of Petroleum Refinery and Chemical Plant Fires
Early reports from the Baytown ExxonMobil suggest that immediate injuries arising from the fire at the facility were relatively minor. With that said, these types of events have the propensity for resulting in more longer-term injuries and health issues, including those associated with contaminated or dangerous smoke emitted from explosions and fires.
Individuals with concerns about possible health issues and injuries associated with these types of incidents can obtain vital information from the refinery fire accident injury lawyer hotline at (713)869-4747. The Doan Law Firm, a nationwide law firm, is headquartered in Houston at:
Houston, Texas 77056
A consultation can be scheduled with a refinery fire accident injury lawyer at the firm’s office, at an injured person’s home, or at a hospital. The Doan Law Firm has an attorney fee promise: no fees unless the firm wins.