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.