Explosion sends flames, smoke into sky at ITC Deer Park tank farm

DEER PARK, Texas – An explosion and flareup at the Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park was seen from SKY2 Wednesday evening, hours after the the fire at the tank farm was said to be extinguished.

Within minutes, it was extinguished and crews were seen spraying foam and water on the area. 

The City of Deer Park released a statement that read, "According to Emergency Services Director Robert Hemminger, who spoke with first responders on scene, the flare-up was contained within approximately 30 seconds using staged firefighting equipment. Hemminger indicated that in fire incidents of this scale, small flare-ups are expected and first responders plan to address these issues as they occur."

Earlier, officials with the company that operates the chemical facility that caught fire Sunday apologized for the blaze that burned for nearly three days.

Alice Richardson, of the Intercontinental Terminal Co., said Wednesday that while the reignition of the fire is possible, the likelihood diminishes with each passing hour. She said fire crews continue to spray foam on the tank farm located at the corner Independence Parkway and Tidal Road as a precaution.

Richardson said the company is beginning to transition to a cleanup and recovery operation, and teams will enter the tank farm to begin a root-cause investigation as soon as it is safe.

Earlier reports from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality indicated that the fire started as a result of a manifold malfunction on tank 80-8. Richardson said that report is required by law and was based on an assumption that since 80-8 was the first tank to catch fire, that is where it started.

VIDEO: SKY2 shows aftermath of Deer Park fire

Adam Adams, the on-site incident coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency, said that monitoring of the air, from both above the plume and on the ground, has been regularly conducted from La Porte to Katy since federal agents arrived at the site on Sunday. He said that the EPA also reviewed data from TCEQ, Harris County and Houston.

“(There were) no hazardous levels of concentration,” Adams said regarding the data.

Adams said that water samples are still be analyzed.

David Womack, vice president of operations for ITC, said that only four of the 80,000-barrel tanks in the 15-tank farm not damaged by the fire. He said those four tanks will have to be inspected to confirm that and may need to be demolished as the recovery effort begins.

Richardson said that air, water and soil monitoring will continue during the recovery process.

ITC is required to report an estimate of what the company believes was released into the atmosphere during the fire. Click here for that report.


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TCEQ Search Air Emission Event Reports (PDF)
TCEQ Search Air Emission Event Reports (Text)

“It will go on for quite a while,” Richardson said when asked about a timetable for the cleanup.

In a written statement, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said that the county's air monitoring operation will focus more on the site of the fire during the cleanup phase:

"After the successful extinguishing of the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) fire at the Deer Park facility, public safety continues to be our foremost concern. There will be continuous air monitoring as clean-up operations begin, and as the monitoring shows extended favorable conditions, the monitoring will focus closer to the incident site. This means increased monitoring around the facility for the type of chemicals involved in the incident itself. If there is any indication of a threat to public safety, there will be immediate notification from local emergency management officials."

Richardson also expressed remorse, saying that ITC has sought to be a good member of the community during its long history in Deer Park.

“We’re sorry for what has happened,” Richardson said.

No injuries have been reported.

VIDEO: Harris County officials provide updates Wednesday afternoon

VIDEO: ITC 10 a.m. Wednesday update

About the Authors:

Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli has been a digital news editor at KPRC 2 since 2018. She is a published poet and has background in creative writing and journalism. Daniela has covered events like Hurricane Harvey and the Astros World Series win. In her spare time, Daniela is an avid reader and loves to spend time with her two miniature dachshunds.