Investigators to enter ITC tank farm for first time since chemical fire

PASADENA, Texas – It has been over a month since a massive fire broke out at the Intercontinental Terminals Co. in Deer Park.

After burning for multiple days and two flare-ups, crews were able to put the blaze out and begin the cleanup process.

In the following days, a benzene detection forced a shelter-in-place order for the area, nearby waters were polluted with oily residue from runoff and residents in Channelview even saw some flyaway foam landing in their yards


ITC was also hit with multiple lawsuits over the fire, including lawsuits filed by the Texas attorney general and Harris County.

According to the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office, investigators are expected to enter the tank farm Tuesday for the first time since the blaze erupted.

"Investigators will conduct an initial scene examination," said Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie L. Christensen. "Investigators will make entry into the tank farm with the appropriate level of personal protective equipment (PPE), which will include hazmat suits and air purifying respirators." 

The teams of groups of four to six people entered the tank farm consisted of hazmat technicians, fire investigators and Bureau of  Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives personnel.  

“The first two teams did an overall scene examination. They took 360-degree photos for an overall view of the scene. They took photos from the perimeter and worked their way inside,” said Rachel Moreno with the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office. 

The teams went in four times, twice in the morning and then twice after lunch. 

“Because of the heat and humidity today, they only stayed inside for about 30 to 40 minutes. This afternoon they began narrowing their focus to find the origin of the fire,” Moreno said. 

The teams are working on a strategy for Wednesday that could include going back into the tank farm. As of now, they have not been able to pinpoint the cause of the fire. 

WATCH: Officials give update on ITC cleanup efforts

Cleanup efforts have been ongoing and now, four weeks after the fire broke out, officials gave an update on how much progress has been made.

According to ITC official Brent Weber, 11 of the tanks are secure and two are being cleaned. Weber said there are still four tanks that need to be pumped, but three contain basal oil, which is nontoxic and a low priority.

Weber said the cleanup process is nearing its end.

"I would say days, not weeks," Weber said. "The bulk material of the liquid has been removed across the tank farm, and now we are in the final stages of getting that last final product heel out of the majority of the tanks." 

Check out the timeline of events below:

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.

Award-winning journalist, adventure seeker, explorer, dog lover.