Confusion, communication problems hampered initial response to ITC chemical fire

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter
KPRC2

DEER PARK, Texas - Internal communications and 911 calls between Deer Park emergency responders show an initial lack of communication with Intercontinental Terminals Company officials and confusion about what is on fire.

Thirty minutes after the initial 911 call, Deer Park's top emergency manager was still unable to get in touch with officials at ITC.

At that point, Deer Park had only deployed one fire engine to the catastrophe, opting instead to wait for the petrochemical industry's preferred firefighting force to respond.

CIMA, Channel Industries Mutual Aid, appears to have first dispatched a fire engine to the burning facility at 10:29 a.m. Sunday, approximately a half hour after the fire is believed to have started, and 15 minutes after a flurry of 911 calls was received.

A shelter-in-place advisory, ordered by Robert Hemminger, Deer Park director of emergency services for the "north half of city" was notated at 10:51 a.m.

A full citywide shelter-in-place advisory for Deer Park residents was issued by city officials hours later at 1:23 p.m., according to dispatch records obtained by Channel 2 Investigates.

Independently, at 2:12 p.m., ITC issued a separate shelter-in-place advisory for those within a 2 1/2 mile radius of the burning facility.

At 7:34 p.m. on Sunday a notation reads: "Dale Samuelson ITC Emerg Person Coming," however, it is not clear from from the dispatch notes whether other ITC emergency managers were already on scene.

It is also not clear from the dispatch notes when Deer Park emergency managers first connected with ITC emergency managers after initially leaving a message.

Copyright 2019 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.