Top stories of 2019 (#2): ITC chemical plant fire burns for days, creates health and economic impacts

An aerial image of the ITC fire in Deer Park on March 19, 2019.
An aerial image of the ITC fire in Deer Park on March 19, 2019.

HOUSTON – Editor’s note: Through the end of the year, click2houston.com is looking back at the biggest stories of the year, based on what was most popular on our website this year.

#7: Tropical Storm Imelda slips in, causes major flooding and kills at least 5 people

#6: Astros fall in seven games, Cole leaves but Verlander wins Cy Young

#5: Harding Street raid prompts extensive investigation, multiple federal charges

#4: Plane carrying Amazon cargo crashes into Trinity Bay, kills 3 aboard

#3: 5 officers were killed in the line of duty this year

On March 17, multiple reports were made to Deer Park police alerting them of smoke in the area shortly after 10 a.m.

Deer Park police pin-pointed the source of the smoke at the nearby ITC chemical facility at 10:15 a.m. The department attempted to contact ITC to find out exactly what was on fire but their calls were not answered at that time.

A 911 call at 10:47 a.m. revealed “according to Philip, it is a nasty chemical, but that is all we know, we have no chemical name."

At 10:51 a.m., Deer Park’s Director of Emergency Services Robert Hemminger called for a shelter-in-place for the north half of the city until 1:23 p.m. when a citywide shelter-in-place was ordered.

After three days, the fire was extinguished on March 20; however, reignited shortly after. Officials quickly put out the second fire.

On March 22, another fire ignited after a contaminated dike was breached. The flames were extinguished within an hour.

See the full timeline of events below:

What was the cause?

Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ruled the event an accident after the final report revealed the fire was “likely caused by a failure within the manifold power frame of Tank 80-8.”

Read the final investigation report below:

What was the impact?

Tucker Bayou and Houston Ship Channel were shut down due to contamination caused by the chemical facility fires. The Coast Guard collected more than 60,000 gallons of oily water.

Additionally, the economy took a hit while ships were unable to deport from or get in to the Houston Ship Channel as many businesses rely on shipped imports.

The nearby popular restaurant Monument Inn was forced to temporarily close which resulted in the loss of about $500,000 in sales, according to the owner.

On March 22, the first lawsuits were filed against ITC by La Porte residents seeking $2 million in damages.

About the Author: