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Fire extinguished at ExxonMobil plant in Baytown; 37 injured in blast

BAYTOWN, Texas – More than 30 people suffered minor injuries Wednesday in an explosion and subsequent fire at the ExxonMobil plant in Baytown, officials said.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the fire was contained about 5:35 p.m. Wednesday.

The fire was extinguished Thursday morning.

What we know

According to a tweet from Baytown officials, workers at the facility dealt with a fire at the Baytown Olefins Plant in a unit that contained propane and propylene.

Jason Duncan, manager of the ExxonMobil plant, said 37 people suffered injuries that were not life-threatening. He described the injuries as minor burns. Officials said 66 people were taken for medical evaluation.

The company said all workers who received medical attention or first aid were cleared to return to work.

Duncan said the unit that is involved in the fire was isolated and the blaze was under control. He said the strategy was to let the fire burn itself out.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The rest of the Baytown complex is operating at reduced rates, according to the company.

 

VIDEO: 2 p.m. ExxonMobil fire update

A shelter-in-place order that was issued about 11:15 a.m. was lifted about 3 p.m.

Air quality monitoring continues around the complex, officials said. According to a tweet, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality sent staff members to the scene. Monitoring information from the commission can be found at TCEQ.Texas.gov.

Harris County Pollution Control is reporting their monitoring data at PCS.HarrisCountyTX.gov.

ExxonMobil officials said no adverse environmental effects have been detected.

ExxonMobil issued the following written statement about the fire:

"A fire has occurred at the Baytown Olefins Plant. Our fire teams are working to extinguish the fire. We are conducting personnel accounting. Our first priority remains the safety of people, including our employees, contractors and the surrounding community. As a precaution, our Industrial Hygiene staff is conducting air quality monitoring at the site and fence line. We are cooperating with regulatory agencies. We deeply regret any disruption or inconvenience that this incident may have caused the community."

A large group of people was seen gathering on a road leading to the plant, but it was not immediately clear if workers had been evacuated from the facility.

Baytown police said drivers should avoid the area of Spur 330 and Decker Drive, saying the inbound service road is closed at Baker.

What's burning?

ExxonMobil officials said the unit that is affected by the fire processes light hydrocarbons, including propane and propylene. Baytown officials said the fire involved polypropylene.

PHOTOS: Fire burns at ExxonMobil plant in Baytown

Polypropylene is a high-performance, lightweight durable plastic used in automotive, appliance and packaging and labeling.

Read more about polypropylene here.

What is the site?

According to the ExxonMobil website, "the Baytown Olefins Plant, which began operations in 1979, is one of the largest ethylene plants in the world."

Read more about the facility here.


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