A yet to be controlled fire at a Harris County waste management facility has resulted in the evacuation of everyone within a half mile radius of the VLS Recovery Services plant. While no injuries have yet been reported in the Harris County industrial accident, a thick plume of toxic smoke is spreading from the blaze and over the surrounding area.
As of midafternoon, officials have not reported what toxins are thought to be contained in the spreading black smoke plume. They have only confirmed that they do believe the smoke contains hazardous toxins, which is the reason for the current evacuation. No information has yet been provided as to how long the evacuation order will remain in effect.
As a result of the evacuation, officials familiar with ongoing air monitoring in the area believe that Harris County residents are not in any immediate danger. They will continue to update as the situation develops.
Cause of VLS Recovery Services Fire Identified
The fire started at the VLS Recovery Services facility located just outside of Hockley at about 9:30 Saturday morning. Firefighters from multiple agencies were dispatched to the scene as a result of the size of the blaze. The facility is located at the 17300 block of Hockley, due south of the Hockley Recreational Complex. The area in question is just off of Old Washington Road.
The spokesperson for the Harris County Fire Marshal, Rachel Neutzler, provided information about the cause of the waste management facility fire. A number of steel drums that evidently contained flammable (and perhaps toxic) substances fell over inside the facility. The waste management plant handles petrochemicals, among other types of waste. Once they drums fell over, their contents caught fire.
Early reports on Saturday morning suggested the fire started near or with a furnace in the facility. The morning and afternoon reports suggest the steel drums fell over and discharged what seem to be flammable substances near or at the furnace.
Uncontrolled Blaze Spread Rapidly
When the fire broke out at the Harris County waste management facility, the blaze grew rapidly and was not readily controlled. Firefighters at the scene reported that one of the reasons they were not able to gain initial control over the blaze was because of a lack of water supply at the VLS Recovery Services facility.
The lack of a ready water supply to fight the fire resulted in the blaze spreading to other portions of the large VLS Recovery services facility, the creation of an ever-growing and evidently toxic smoke plume, and the dispatch of multiple firefighting tanker trucks from different locations in Harris County to the scene.
No timeframe has been set by firefighters as to when the blaze will be extinguished. According to officials from the different fire departments at the scene of the Harris County industrial accident, the fire is expected to burn “for hours.”
Additional Response to the Harris County Industrial Accident
Some additional steps have been taken in response to the fire near Hockley stemming from the Harris County industrial accident:
- Officials have cordoned off multiple roadways near Hockley. These include Old Washington Road as well as US 290 (between Kickapoo Road and Kermier Road.
- Railway tanker cars were located next to the facility that has gone up in flames. Railroad workers have moved these tanker cars out of harms way. (Evidently one of the functions performed at the VLS waste management facility was to clean railroad tanker cars that had carried potentially toxic or hazardous substances.
- Air monitoring includes Houston, with downtown Houston about a half an hour from the burning VLS waste management facility.
If you have any questions about the ongoing emergency situation stemming from the VLS waste management fire, The Doan Office has established a 24-hour hotline at (832) 835-0000. There is no cost and no obligation to contact our firm and speak with an experienced Harris County industrial accident lawyer.
Our Harris County industrial accident team is headquartered in our offices, conveniently located at:
Houston, Texas 77056
The immediate effects of a Harris County industrial accident can be significant in some cases. With that said, there can also be severe long-term effects stemming from a Harris County industrial accident like what we are all witnessing at the VLS waste management facility.