Fire Manufacturing Plant Near Dallas Contained, Authorities Say

By | October 4, 2011

A fire at a chemical plant south of Dallas shot massive plumes of black smoke and bright orange flames into the sky on Oct. 3, forcing schoolchildren and residents to evacuate or take cover indoors to avoid possible exposure to dangerous gases.

Flames engulfed a large complex at a Magnablend Inc., facility in Waxahachie, about 30 miles south of Dallas, where the fast-moving blaze consumed a fire truck and flames neared railroad tracks alongside the industrial property. No injuries were immediately reported from the fire or resulting smoke.

A fire official says the massive blaze was sparked as workers mixed chemicals at the 100,000-square-foot warehouse. Fire Chief David Hudgins says he’s not sure what chemicals were involved in the fire that broke out before 11 a.m.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the fire was contained by Tuesday morning but that hot spots remained under the rubble.

Magnablend spokesman Donald Golden told WFAA-TV that the 25 to 30 employees who were inside a warehouse at the plant evacuated safely when the fire broke out before 11 a.m. Golden said the company manufactures about 200 products, including some that are hazardous when ignited, but there was no immediate word on what caused the blaze.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set up equipment to monitor air quality in the area surrounding fire. Waxahachie Fire Department spokeswoman Amy Hollywood said officials could not say for sure what was burning.

Authorities ordered residents closest to the plant to evacuate, while others were advised to stay inside with doors and windows shut. Waxahachie, a city of about 25,000, is considered a Dallas suburb but is situated in an area where the landscape begins to turn more rural.

Jessenia Colin, an assistant general manager at a nearby Hampton Inn and Suites, said hotel staff members were turning off air vents so smoke and chemicals didn’t enter the rooms. As they waited for news and watched the smoke billow, staff covered their mouths to protect against the heavy chemical smell that hung in the air, she said.

“It smells like a whole bunch of chemicals, like wrappers burning,” Colin said. “It’s making

Ellis County emergency management officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for an apartment complex, an elementary school and a junior college. Sheriff’s officials urged residents not to drive toward the area of the fire.

Waxahachie Independent School District spokeswoman Nicole Mansell said Wedgeworth Elementary School students had been safely bused to another school’s gymnasium by 12:25 p.m. Navarro College cancelled all classes for its 2,500 or so students.

Magnablend Inc., manufactures, blends and packages chemicals. Much of its business revolves around energy production, including chemicals used to stimulate oil and gas wells and hydraulic fracturing. The company was launched in Waxahachie in 1979 and now employs about 250 people, with operations in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and North Dakota as well as Texas.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokeswoman Lisa Wheeler said Magnablend has been in compliance with its state permits. A search of public documents revealed no significant violations for the company.

Nicolas Brescia of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the agency is monitoring air quality around the city and so far has found no reason to enact further precautions.

Associated Press writers Schuyler Dixon and Danny Robbins in Dallas, Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston and Jennifer Garske at the Broadcast News Center in Washington contributed to this report.

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