Saturday, July 18, 2009

Airborne Toxic Event II

A two-alarm fire broke out Saturday at a plastic recycling plant in east Houston, creating billows of black smoke visible for several miles. (Houston Chronicle)
I'll say. I got on I-10 from Bunker Hill Drive and I could see the smoke. I was driving east on I-10, so I figured I would check this fire out as I passed. I guessed it was somewhere near the West Loop, a guess so completely wrong that it demonstrates how huge the billows of smoke were. I thought the fire was about five miles from where I was. It was actually 13 miles away.

I drove east on I-10, mesmerized by the dark gash against the blinding Houston sky. Curiosity grabbed hold of me. I finally exited on Lockwood. The fire appears to have been at the intersection of Shotwell and Old Clinton, but you couldn't drive anywhere close to those streets--the police had them blocked off.

But there was a railroad track that crossed Lockwood just north of Clinton that appeared to pass right by the fire. I parked my car off Lockwood and started walking down the tracks. This is what I could see from Lockwood:

As I got closer, I could see the firetrucks working:


I talked to a couple of people as I walked. They were under the impression that it was a rubber warehouse (not plastic, as the Chronicle is reporting), and that they were able to put the fire out, but every time they got it out, it would just reignite as soon as they shut the water off. Apparently the strategy now was to just let it burn out.

That said, they were pouring water onto open flame when I got there.

The water was coming through hoses laid across the railroad tracks (and presumably they had closed the tracks to train traffic).

This was the coolest thing I saw all day:

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