Explosion, Fire Prompt Evacuations in Midland, Texas Neighborhood
An explosion and fire in southeastern Midland (TX) has sent clouds of thick, black smoke billowing several hundred feet into the air and forced local emergency management officials to order a precautionary evacuation of the area inside a quarter-mile radius of the intersection of Cloverdale and South Fairground Roads. Local officials report that such orders are routinely issued following fires involving unknown petrochemicals but that, at this time, no significant release of potentially toxic chemicals has been reported.
According to local media sources in the Midland area, the explosion and subsequent fire occurred shortly after 10:30 a.m. and appears to have involved a hot oiler and at least one fracking tank. Midland Fire Department officials at the scene report that one person present at the time of the explosion suffered what are described as “minor burn injuries.” Firefighters are also reporting that the explosion caused a fuel or chemical spill at the scene. This spill ignited shortly after firefighters arrived on scene and quickly engulfed an undescribed fire department vehicle, causing firefighters to abandon the vehicle to the flames. No fire department personnel were reported to have been injured.
Midland officials have not confirmed the origin of the fire or the name of any businesses that may be involved. However, a Google Earth™ scan suggests that the immediate area seems to be devoted to light industrial use and is sparsely populated. State Environmental Protection Agency are monitoring air quality in the areas downwind of the fire but have not extended the evacuation zone, but are encouraging area residents to “shelter in place” and to avoid unnecessary travel near the fire.
Chemical explosions/fires are a known hazard of oil and natural gas production, a major component of the Midland-area economic base. Although today’s fire has apparently been contained and is being allowed to burn itself out, it may be several days before the extent and type of potential ground contamination can be determined. Historically, the greater danger to public health in incidents such as today’s fire had come from exposure to chemicals found in smoke that is carried downwind of the fire.
In addition to immediate respiratory problems caused by smoke inhalation, some health effects of toxic materials carried downwind may not be recognized for several months after exposure. Since the materials involved in today’s Midland fire have yet to be identified and reported, at The Doan Law Firm our staff will continue to monitor local news and State of Texas sources for additional information regarding the situation in Midland and will post additional reports as they become available.