Several town hall meetings scheduled in wake of Deer Park fire

By Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor, Sally Mamdooh - Reporter

DEER PARK, Texas - A fire reignited Friday at a chemical facility in Deer Park where a previous blaze burned for nearly four days earlier this week.

Thick smoke could be seen rising from the Intercontinental Terminals Co. facility at the corner of Independence Parkway and Tidal Road.

Video from SKY2 showed a fire burning not only in the 15-tank yard, but also along a drainage ditch leading away from the yard. The new blaze appeared to be under control within about an hour.

Officials said a dike wall that surrounds the yard was breached Friday afternoon, and a shelter-in-place order was issued for surrounding industrial facilities and the San Jacinto historic site.

Authorities closed traffic to a section of the Houston Ship Channel between Tuckers Bayou and Ship Channel Light 116.

The Beltway 8 Ship Channel Bridge was closed for a short period of time Friday afternoon while the fire was burning.

The breach and fire came after ITC officials said they had begun pumping out pygas that remained in Tank 80-7. They warned that the pumping operation could upset the foam blanket that is keeping vapors contained, which could release more vapors.

It was not immediately clear which tanks were burning Friday afternoon, but ITC officials said in a statement that the tanks are located on the west side of the yard. Officials at the La Porte Office of Emergency Management said that two tanks were on fire.

The original fire started Sunday morning and was declared extinguished by Wednesday morning. There was a brief flareup Wednesday evening before crews were able to extinguish the blaze again. On Thursday, a release of benzene prompted a shelter-in-place order for Deer Park and Galena Park.

Friday's brief fires are the reason a town hall meeting organized to address mounting resident concerns was rescheduled. Residents feared the exposure to unknown chemicals.

Mary Vargas plans to attend the town hall meeting. Her grandchildren and daughter have temporarily moved out of Pasadena due to the recent fires and the potential risk.

“This is new to us. This doesn't happen all the time, and we are not really prepared,” Vargas said.

Raul Camarillo is worried, but more so for his two 7-year-old grandsons.

“For me, I’m not that worried, but for my grandbabies, they have their whole lives ahead of them, and I worry for their future,” Camarillo said.

The Pasadena/Deer Park meeting was rescheduled for Monday and will be held at Iglesia Fuente de Agua Viva, 3335 Watters Road, Pasadena TX 77504 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Two more town hall meetings will take place this weekend in the Houston area.

Town Hall No. 2

Rice University, Herring Hall, Room 100
6100 Main St., Houston, TX 77005
2-4 p.m. Saturday

Town Hall No. 3

East End: Talento Bilingue de Houston
333 S. Jensen Drive, Houston, TX 77003
2-4 p.m. Sunday

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