Chemical plant explosion in Texas sparks large fire, evacuation and shelter-in-place orders issued

An explosion has sparked a large fire at a chemical plant in Shepherd, Texas, sending massive plumes of black smoke into the sky.

The “plant explosion” and subsequent chemical fire unfolded Wednesday morning at Sound Resource Solutions, which makes adhesive solvents and paint removers, the San Jacinto County Office of Emergency Management said.

Geoff Harfield, the president of Sound Resource Solutions, said during a news briefing Wednesday that one employee was injured and was being treated for minor burns. He said the business has been part of the community since 2013 and employs nearly 40 people, and that everyone, except for the injured person, is home and safe.

“First responders have done a great job. They’ve been very careful. They’ve made sure everyone is safe,” he said.

The fire prompted the evacuation of a private school at Farm-to-Market Road 1127 and officials to issue a five-mile shelter-in-place warning. By 10:30 local time, this radius had been reduced to one mile.

A fire rages at a chemical plant in San Jacinto County, Texas, on November 8, 2023.KPRC

Highway 59 is closed due to the explosion and local residents are encouraged to use alternative routes.

The Polk County Emergency Management Office said the plume of smoke from the explosion was heading toward the Livingston area and advised local residents to shelter in place and turn off HVAC systems in homes and businesses “immediately.”

“At this time, the effects of the chemical in the air are unknown,” Polk County officials said.

The Livingston Police Department similarly urged its residents and businesses to shelter in place and turn off air conditioners until further notice.

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The Polk County Emergency Management Office said the affected plant harbors chemicals known to have “acute toxicity, carcinogenicity and reproductive toxicity, and can cause serious eye damage or irritation, skin corrosion or irritation, aspiration hazard and organ toxicity.”