SHEPHERD, Texas (KTRK) — Several fire departments used foam Wednesday morning to contain a large factory fire along FM 1127 in Shepherd, Texas, that injured a worker.
San Jacinto County Precinct 2 Constable posted photos of the thick black smoke coming from the surrounding area around 8:45 a.m.
Around 8:17 a.m., authorities said they received reports of a possible explosion at Sound Resource Solutions, which reportedly makes paint stripper glue and solvents. A source told Eyewitness News that a 1,000-gallon propane tank was in the middle of the fire and a four-inch natural gas line was under the ground.
Investigator 13’s Kevin Ozebek spoke with a current employee who said a man was injured in a “freak accident” caused by a forklift incident. The source said the injured employee was taken to hospital with second-degree burns to his arms and first-degree burns to his face.
The owner of Sound Resource Solutions confirmed there was a forklift incident and said the worker suffered a minor injury and was being treated in hospital.
Officials said that out of nearly 40 people employed, only 19 were working at the time. All employees have reportedly been accounted for and the injured worker is doing well.
Authorities said flammable liquids, diesel, turpentine and other chemicals were involved in the fire. Some chemicals are said to be toxic.
Shelter in place issued
Residents within a kilometer radius of the fire were asked to shelter in place. These areas included San Jacinto and Polk counties.
As of 2:36 p.m., shelter-in-place orders in Polk County and San Jacinto were lifted and officials said HVAC systems could be turned back on at people’s discretion.
After conducting an air quality monitoring operation in Polk County, the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office said it did not find any elevated levels. However, the public is asked not to linger outside, particularly young children and people with respiratory illnesses or other health conditions.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has not yet completed its report.
Affected school districts
The San Jacinto County Office of Emergency Management said 31 students at Wildwood Private School, located along FM 1127, were safely evacuated via pasture at 9:15 a.m.
Shepherd ISD officials said there were about 1,900 children in the district and they would be in class during the fire. All students were reported safe and were no longer asked to shelter in place.
In an afternoon update, the district said the incident prevented buses from following their regular route, stating the following:
“The incident (on Wednesday) at the chemical plant on Route 1127 prevents our buses from traveling on Highway 59 between Route 223 and the Trinity River Bridge. Students who live along these areas will need to be picked up by a parent or guardian. Students can be picked up. now or at the normal dismissal time. Please contact your student’s campus if you have any questions.
The Goodrich Independent School District said it evacuated students on the advice of Polk County Emergency Management Services to Onalaska ISD. While a map shows the school is about six miles from the plant site, which was not in the shelter-in-place zone, the campus was in the direct path of the smoke.
Superintendent Daniel Barton said when they received the evacuation call, they loaded the 269 K-12 students onto four buses and drove them to Onalaska Junior-Senior High School. He said it took about 15 minutes from the time of the call to departure.
“Our community did a great job and was patient and allowed us to get here. We let them know immediately, and they’ve been picking up ever since,” Barton said. “It’s really been a blessing to the whole community that everything has gone so well because you always think you have a good plan, but sometimes it doesn’t go so well, unfortunately. But this time it worked out. is produced.”
Those students have since been sent back to Goodrich to finish their school day or be picked up by their parents.
Livingston ISD said it has placed all campuses on hold out of an abundance of caution and has used emergency protocols to ensure the safety of students and staff.
The district said that if there is a wait, students are trained to clear the halls and stay in their area or room until an “all clear” is announced. Adults and staff should then close and lock doors and account for all students.
Onalaska ISD said it did not shelter in place because it was not in the path of the plume. The Leggett and Corrigan-Camden school districts said they were sheltering in place.
According to Sam Houston Electric Cooperative Website, 412 out of 14,614 customers in San Jacinto County are without power. It appears emergency personnel have requested that the power be turned off while crews work on scene.
The Texas Department of Transportation said US-59 remained closed from FM 1988 to exit 451B while crews worked to extinguish the fire. Detours include exit 451B in Shepherd and FM 1988 in Polk County.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office also reported traffic was disrupted at US-190 and US-59. Depending on how you are traveling, drivers will be redirected to State Highway 156 or I-45.
FM 3278 would not be open to traffic without proof of residence.