Houston-area Shell chemical plant catches fire

DEER PARK, Texas (AP) — A chemical plant in the Houston area caught fire Friday, sending a huge plume of smoke into the sky.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said the fire was at a Shell USA Inc. facility in Deer Park, a suburb east of Houston.

Officers received a service call just after 3 p.m. Friday to help divert traffic around the plant, Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Thomas Gilliland said. The city of Deer Park said in an advisory that there was no shelter-in-place order for residents.

Shell is conducting their own air quality monitoring but the city has yet to receive an update, said Kaitlyn Bluejacket, a spokesperson for the city of Deer Park. She said they have been advised by Shell that there is no need at the time to shelter in place, but that the city would update residents if that becomes the case.

Fire crews from the plant and nearby plants are responding, as well as the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office, who is leading the response, Gilliland said.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a tweet his agency was responding to calls about “some type of explosion.”

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said in a statement that his office has been assured that the situation is “under control” and that all employees have been accounted. Garcia urged people to avoid the area but said there is no shelter-in-place currently in effect.

The cause of the fire remains unknown and under investigation by the Harris County Fire Marshal, according to Garcia.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials said in a statement that they are responding to the industrial fire and have deployed air monitoring assets from the Houston, Beaumont and Austin offices to support local response.

Shell officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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