According to officials, a major fire at the petrochemical terminal near Houston is likely to burn for another two days. (March 18th)

HOUSTON – A major fire in a petrochemical terminal in the Houston area is likely to burn for another two days, officials said Monday, which indicated that the air quality around the facility was subjected to normal tests.

The fire erupted on Sunday at Intercontinental Terminals in Deer Park, about 15 km southeast of Houston. Firefighters were working to control the fire and the company said the risk of explosion remained "minimal".

ITC stated that all employees had been accounted for and no injuries had been reported. A huge plume of smoke could be seen for miles, including from the Galveston ferry, about 55 kilometers southeast of the fire. Officials estimated that the plume rose from 3,000 feet (914 meters) to 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) in the air.

The company said the fire had spread to seven storage tanks containing gasoline components and also used in nail polish removers, glues and paint thinners. The ITC had initially stated that the fire had spread to eight tanks, but the company's manager, David Wascome, announced Monday that one of the tanks was empty.

On Monday afternoon, ITC spokeswoman Alice Richardson said fire crews had made progress in the fight against the fire, with three of the tanks now intermittently firing.

A report by the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, a local environmental consultant recruited by ITC, shows that the air quality around the facility was below levels that would represent a health problem, Richardson said. The company's report data was collected from several locations in Deer Park and surrounding communities from Sunday to Monday morning.

A plume of smoke rises from a petrochemical fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company on Monday in Deer Park, Texas. (Photo: David J. Phillip, AP)

Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County said Monday that the county was conducting its own air quality monitoring and was reviewing state data.

"The latest information available does not indicate levels beyond a threshold that would make it dangerous," she said.

Hidalgo, the county's top official, said that if conditions change, locals will be warned of potential health hazards.

An on-site shelter order was issued Sunday at Deer Park, which has about 34,000 residents.

The order was lifted early Monday after air quality tests revealed the absence of concentrations of hazardous chemicals, according to the city.

However, city and county officials have warned that the smoke from the fire could cause irritation of the skin and eyes, as well as respiratory problems. Schools in the region were closed on Monday as a precautionary measure. Deer Park and the neighboring La Porte School District planned to return to school on Tuesday.

Fire crews used foam to protect storage tanks that did not catch fire.

"We control the fire and keep it away from the rest of the tanks," said Ray Russell of Channel Industries Mutual Aid, an organization that coordinates the emergency and emergency capabilities of the industry. local petrochemical.

Russell estimated that the fire would burn again for two days. He said firefighters were now in defensive mode.

Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen said the investigators at his office were at the scene of the fire and were still determining the cause of the fire.

The fire was the second in three days at a petrochemical facility in the Houston area. A fire that erupted Saturday in the nearby ExxonMobil factory in Baytown has been brought under control.

John Mone, AP writer at La Porte, contributed to this report.

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