Hours After Explosions Rocked A Texas Chemical Plant, A Chemical Fire Continues To Burn

Nov 27, 2019, 9:33 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:03 pm

An explosion rocked a plant in Port Neches, Texas, blowing out windows at nearby homes and sending plumes of orange flames into the sky. The explosion was at the TPC plant that makes products for chemical and petroleum companies, CNN affiliate KFDM/KBTV reported.

(CNN) — Hours after a series of explosions rocked a Texas chemical plant outside Houston early Wednesday, officials said there is no way to know how long the fire will burn.

Around 1 a.m. (2 a.m. ET), an explosion at the TPC Group plant caused extensive damage across the small city of Port Neches, leaving at least three employees injured, authorities said. During a press conference, they said a series of smaller explosions occurred throughout the day and then a larger one in the afternoon launched a tower into the air with balls of fire.

A mandatory evacuation has been issued for areas within a 4-mile radius of the plant because of the potential for more explosions.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, who issued the mandatory evacuation, said the initial explosion knocked out power to the plant. Authorities have no “ability to check the volume of available chemicals” and “no way to calculate burn rates” going forward, he said.

A mandatory evacuation has been issued for everyone within a half mile of the plant, the Nederland Volunteer Fire Department said in a Facebook post. It said the evacuation area could change or expand.

Officials have focused on containing the blaze and keeping surrounding storage tanks cool, according to Troy Monk, director of health safety and security for TPC Group, which operates the Port Neches manufacturing plant about 90 miles east of Houston. The next priorities will be putting out the fire, then investigating its cause, he said in a press briefing.

“Right now, it’s contained and not going anywhere but it’s not under control,” Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Crystal Holmes told CNN.

Personnel were evacuated from the plant, which makes products for chemical and petroleum companies, said TPC Group. About 30 people — out of 175 full-time employees and 50 contractors — were on site at the time of the explosion, Monk said. He added that two injured employees and a contractor were treated and released from medical facilities.

The fire is burning a chemical called butadiene, police said. The colorless gas is considered a health hazard, according to the US National Library of Medicine. It is made from processing petroleum and is used to make synthetic rubber and plastics.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said the 1,3-Butadiene levels at a monitoring station about 4 miles west of the incident, “are well below concentrations of health concern or odorous levels.”

‘Extensive damage’ in Port Neches

Branick, the judge, told CNN that officials became concerned after the second explosion launched the tower into the air “like a missile” in the direction of Port Neches-Groves High School.

There were no students at the school at the time but officials were worried other columns from the plant might be heaved into a nearby storage tank facility, causing more explosions, he said.

Besides Port Neches, mandatory orders include the cities of Groves, Nederland and the northern part of Port Arthur.

From an office in nearby Nederland, Kelly Berka saw the plumes of smoke from after the afternoon explosion.

“What a damned mess,” Berka wrote on Twitter. “We’re clearing out.”

Berka told CNN her co-worker, who lives near the plant, had her front door blown off earlier in the morning before evacuating.

Holmes confirmed the morning blast sucked doors out of homes.

Port Neches police said that blast caused “extensive damage” throughout the city.

“Please stay off the roads anywhere near the refineries. Obey all the barricades that are in place,” police said in a statement.

‘I noticed an orange glow’

Some Port Neches residents said their windows were blown out by the blast. Monk said he awoke to his front and back doors being blown into their frames.

“I understand what getting blown out of bed means now,” Port Neches Mayor Glenn Johnson told reporters.

Tyler Shawn Dunlap was sleeping when the explosion rocked his house.

“I heard and felt my house shake. I first thought people were coming to break in ’cause of our intense security,” he told CNN. “I went to dad’s room, and he thought our generator blew up so we checked that, then I noticed an orange glow from the clouds.”

Trent Lee said the explosion sounded like a nuclear detonation. It shook everything in Port Neches.

The blast was captured on Mia Hubert’s doorbell camera and left the area covered in a fiery hue.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Tanya Vea...

Larry D. Curtis

Darrell Brown to retire as Bonneville president, Tanya Vea will helm company

SALT LAKE CITY — President of Bonneville International Corporation, Darrell Brown, announced his retirement Thursday, scheduled beginning in August 2023. Tanya Vea will be Bonneville’s new President and Chief Operating officer starting Aug. 1. Brown started as president of Bonneville in December of 2013. During his tenure helming the broadcast company, it acquired four stations […]

19 hours ago

Billy Joel's historic monthly residency at Madison Square Garden will come to an end next year.

Jesse Zanger

Billy Joel to wrap up Madison Square Garden residency in 2024

The Piano Man's run is coming to an end in Madison Square Garden.

19 hours ago

Cheri Ferguson says Ozempic helped her stop vaping and limit her alcohol use...

Meg Tirrell, CNN

Weight-loss meds like Ozempic may help curb addictive behaviors

Cheri Ferguson has traded her vape pen for an Ozempic pen.

19 hours ago

FILE: CHICAGO, IL - MAY 31:  Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels is congratulated by Mickey Mo...


Man sues Angels after he was allegedly blinded by a baseball during game

A man has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Angels after he was allegedly blinded by a baseball that was thrown into the bleachers

19 hours ago

An unidentified white male in his 40-50's, wearing a blue shirt and black pants, approached a newbo...

Associated Press

Man pleads guilty to picking up Yellowstone bison calf that was rejected by herd, euthanized

A man from Hawaii pleaded guilty to a charge alleging he picked up a bison calf in Yellowstone National Park, causing the animal's herd to reject it.

19 hours ago

Former President Donald Trump, Greg Norman, LIV Golf CEO, right, and Paul Myler, deputy head of mis...

Associated Press

Reports: Prosecutors have tape of Trump discussing holding onto classified doc after leaving office

Prosecutors have reportedly obtained a recording of former President Trump in which he talks about holding onto a classified document.

19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Portrait of happy boy playing and splashing water in the swimming pool...

Get Out Pass

Family Fun Activities in Utah You Have to Try This Summer

These family fun activities will entertain you all summer, so if you ever feel stuck in a rut wondering what to do, refer to this guide!

Woman IT specialist in elegant suit working on notebook computer in data center next to server rack...

Les Olson

Your Complete Guide to Outsourcing IT Services

This guide covers everything you need to know about the different benefits of outsourcing IT services to meet your small business needs.

diverse group of friends dance outside under string lights...

Lighting Design

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor Lighting

Read for the most frequently asked questions about outdoor lighting to help narrow the search for your home.

Stack of old laptops with dark background...

PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...

BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.

Hours After Explosions Rocked A Texas Chemical Plant, A Chemical Fire Continues To Burn