Massive Petrochemical Fire Blankets Community in Smoke and Toxic Benzene

A massive petrochemical fire in Texas burned for four days, releasing dangerous levels of toxic benzene into the air. Shelter-in-place advisories were issued for thousands of residents in the Houston area due to unsafe air quality.

The fire was located at a petrochemical storage terminal near Houston, Texas. Area schools were closed earlier this week and residents were advised to limit time they spent outside.

As the fire burned, a thick plume of black smoke blanketed large swaths of the surrounding sky. The fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company facility in La Porte was finally put out after burning for four days. Dark sooty clouds continued to lingered over the Houston area after the fire was extinguished.

The chemical benzene has been linked to leukemia after long-term exposure to high levels in the air, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Eight schools and four college campuses were closed in the area and a fifteen mile stretch of Texas Highway 225 was closed following the shelter-in-place advisory.



Photo: “Deer Park Chemical Plant Fire, smoke trail, from 40 miles away” by Patrick Bruhn