Fire at Texas Plant Out
PEARLAND, Texas (AP) _ Firefighters on Saturday extinguished a fire at a chemical packaging plant in which barrels exploded like a string of firecrackers, burning two workers.
The blaze at the Solvents & Chemical Inc. plant, which began late Friday morning and burned for 20 hours, was declared out at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, said police Capt. R.J. Cuna.
Investigators expected to pinpoint by Monday what triggered the blasts, but there was no indication when the Houston area plant would reopen, Cuna said.
″We started (investigating) a little bit today, but there’s just too much debris,″ he said. ″We’ve got thousands of 55-gallon drums that have blown and expanded and what have you. We’re just cleaning them out.″
Cuna said a professional company under contract with the plant was in charge of the cleanup.
Friday’s explosions and fire sent barrels hundreds of feet into the air and blackened the sky with a thick column of smoke that could be seen as far as downtown Houston, 12 miles away.
Residents near the plant were evacuated from their homes as a precaution, but were allowed to return six hours later.
One of the two workers injured in the blaze told his doctor a spark from a forklift touched off the disaster.
But Cuna said, ″I can guarantee that was not the cause.″
Eloy Salazar, a 26-year-old employee, was the most seriously injured with second- and third-degree burns on his chest, face and back.
Another employee, Alexander Jacky, 49, was treated at Southeast Memorial Hospital in Pearland for minor burns to his forearm and released.
Six firefighters and emergency workers were treated at Southeast for heat exhaustion or smoke inhalation.
About 40 other employees were safely evacuated from the plant, said company spokesman George Foster.
Authorities ordered the evacuation because of the heavy smoke and the threat of additional explosions, but said they did not believe toxic fumes were a problem.
The plant includes a large office building-warehouse with about 50 storage tanks outside.
″Apparently there’s a significant loss to the building,″ Foster said. ″But the tanks seem to be intact.″