SHEPHERD, Texas - An employee was injured in an explosion at a chemical plant in Shepherd that prompted a shelter-in-place for nearby residents.
The explosion occurred at Sound Resource Solutions at 731 FM 1127 around 8:17 a.m. Wednesday.
A massive plume of smoke billowed over the area for hours, but it had mostly been knocked down by 1:15 p.m. Firefighters are still on the scene, as of 1:45 p.m., spraying foam over the area.
The San Jacinto County Office of Emergency Management says air monitoring is being conducted in the area, and no chemicals have been found in the air so far.
Employee injured in Shepherd plant fire
Sound Resource Solutions confirms that one employee was injured and taken to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
A source tells FOX 26 that the person sustained first-degree burns to the face and second-degree and third-degree burns to the arms. Officials say the employee was transported in stable condition.
According to the sheriff's office, 19 employees were at work at the time, but no other injuries have been reported.
Shepherd plant fire shelter-in-place, evacuations
UPDATE: November 8, 2023 3:00 pm
The shelter-in-place order has since been lifted in San Jacinto County but asks that people still avoid the area.
The shelter-in-place order has been lifted in Polk County but officials still encourage residents to limit all unnecessary outdoor activity at this time. Small children and persons with respiratory illnesses and other health problems should remain indoors.
HVAC systems may be turned back on at your discretion.
School districts will be releasing students at normal time. The Goodrich students who were evacuated to Onalaska have been released to return to Goodrich, where they may finish their day or be released to go home.
ORIGINAL STORY: November 8, 2023 9:27 pm
San Jacinto County Office of Emergency Management initially asked residents within a five-mile radius to shelter in place. However, officials say after a scene assessment, the shelter-in-place was then reduced to a one-mile radius.
San Jacinto County Pct. 2 Commissioner Donny Marrs says residents who live on FM 1127 and would like to leave their homes should go to the end of FM 1127 to Watson Road. It will take them to the entrance of the Trinity River Ranch. Residents will be escorted out. Once residents leave, they will not be able to return.
Polk County Emergency Management recommended that residents along US Highway 59 from Goodrich to Leggett shelter in place and turn off HVAC systems in homes and businesses. Around 2 p.m., the shelter in place was lifted, but residents are still advised to limit all unnecessary outdoor activity. Those with respiratory illnesses and other health problems are advised to remain indoors. Officials say HVAC systems can be turned back on at your own discretion.
San Jacinto County officials say a private school located on FM 1127 has been evacuated to the Shepherd ISD Administration Building.
Goodrich ISD evacuated at the advice of Polk County OEM. Parents were allowed to pick up their children at the Onalaska ISD stadium at 1855 FM 3459, Onalaska, TX 77360. Parents were asked to bring a photo ID.
Students who were evacuated to Onalaska have been released to return to Goodrich, where they may finish their day or be released to go home.
Shepherd ISD says San Jacinto Office of Emergency Management has declared all of Shepherd ISD safe from the chemical plant fire, and due to the wind direction, no shelter-in-place is required. Students are not being released early, but parents can pick up their students at the front office if they wish to.
What is burning in the Shepherd plant fire?
San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers says he was advised by the president of Sound Resource Solutions that diesel was burning, and some turpentine and other chemicals may be burning as well.
According to Polk County OEM, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality records show that the plant has reported housing wood turpentine, phosphoric acid, xylene, diesel fuel, IMP-IC-2012, sulfuric acid, CDA-121, NP 9, isopropyl alcohol, IMB-BAC-2, AZA-121 dispersant and acetic acid.
A fire burns at a plant in Shepherd, Texas, on Nov. 8, 2023.
"We do oilfield chemicals, we do paint and coatings chemicals, hazardous materials, yes, but it's the type of material you probably have under your kitchen sink. It's not to be taken lightly, obviously, from what you see behind us, it's not to be taken lightly, but we've been doing it well for a long time. And we've always just wanted to be a positive part of the community," said Geoff Harfield, president of Sound Resource Solution said. "And moving forward, we're going to do everything that we can to make sure that anyone who has questions, anyone who wants to know what happened, what's going on, we want to be open. We've been here a long time. We plan on rebuilding, we plan on being a positive part of the community for a very long time."
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Harfield described it as a "forklift incident".
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reports they have picked up no readings while conducting air quality monitoring, and are communicating no concerns regarding the air quality in Polk County at this time.
UPDATE: November 8, 2023 - 5:53 p.m.
The Texas Department of Public Safety is reporting that all lanes of Highway 59 are now open in Polk County.
UPDATE November 8, 2023 4:40 pm
According to Sergeant Erik Burse from Texas Department of Public Safety, southbound lanes of US-59 in Goodrich five miles north of the plant explosion are now open. The northbound lane of Hwy 59 will remain closed at this time. There will be no contraflow on Hwy 59.
Original Story November 8, 2023 10:15 am
US-59 has been shutdown for hours. According to Texas DPS, northbound traffic is being diverted off of the highway at State Loop 424, and southbound traffic is being diverted off of the highway at US-190.
Everyone is asked to avoid the area and use alternate routes. The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said traffic was backing up all the way into their county.
Videos of Shepherd plant fire show massive plume of smoke
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.