Deer Park plant fire puts community at a standstill

By Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor, Vincent Crivelli - Reporter

DEER PARK, Texas - The Deer Park chemical fire is causing havoc for residents in the immediate and surrounding area.

Local officials issued a shelter-in-place for the entire city of Deer Park after a fire broke out at the Intercontinental Tank Company around 10:30 a.m. Sunday. 

Authorities said they are doing their best to monitor the situation. 

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the air quality has been tested and the readings have been standard, but the air will continue to be monitored in case something changes.

Though the shelter-in-place has been officially lifted and SH-225 reopened, some area districts are choosing to remain closed out of an abundance of caution.

Deer Park Independent School District and La Porte ISD closed for the day Monday.

Deer Park ISD issued a statement, saying, "We remain in close contact with City of Deer Park emergency officials, and it appears that the order will be lifted this morning. However, there have been multiple reports of community members experiencing a range of symptoms from discomfort to difficulty breathing. The safety of our students is our highest priority. Out of an abundance of caution, we want to give this situation extra time to be resolved."

La Porte ISD also released a statement, saying, "We have been in contact with officials in Deer Park and La Porte this morning, and in an abundance of caution, La Porte ISD will be closed on Monday, March 18. All extracurricular activities will also be canceled, and employees will not report to work."

La Porte said it would re-open Tuesday. 

Pasadena Independent School District said classes will be in session as usual, but there will be no outside activities.

"The winds blowing in a different direction obviously we're trusting what everytbody , the environmental testing  has been issuing that it's okay to be outdoors," said Adrian Burciaga.

In Pasadena, neighbors in the Parkwood subdivision said starting to see the aftermath of the fire.

George Anderson said he noticed little pieces of black material on his property. 

"When you touch it, it just falls to dust and it leaves black marks like a piece of charcoal would or something like that on your hands, that's why I didn't pick any more up than what I got," he said.

Cody Goodman is a senior at Deer Park High School and described the incident as crazy. 

"It's just weird ... like no kidding it's a giant trail of smoke," Goodman said. "If I was a parent and I had a little kid (or) a newborn, I definitely would not feel comfortable taking (my child) outside because of that."

Goodman is a delivery driver for Pizza Hut and thought he could escape the fire at work, but even that proved impossible. 

"I kind of ignored it at first," Goodman said. "Then I went to work and wasn't even allowed to do my job and I was like'OK, this sucks.'"

Goodman was unable to deliver any pizzas Sunday and expects the same for Monday.

"This is what I have to pay for now," Goodman said pointing to a motorcycle. "But I don't have any money, therefore I can't pay for it."

The thick plumes of smoke billowing over the community are putting other people on edge.

One resident said they went out outside to breathe the air and felt like they were dying. Others commented they were getting headaches or that their lungs hurt.

“When I walked out and I started sitting down, I noticed a rush of not feeling well,” said one area resident. “My head started hurting real bad – like migraine level, and my neck started tensing up real tight.”

Firefighters have been using foam to try to keep the flame contained, but so far it has spread to eight tanks.

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