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Chemical Plant Near Houston Continues to Burn Out of Control

Aired May 1, 2002 - 06:39   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: That big fire in Houston, we've got more information for you folks now. We want to update our breaking story of the morning.

A chemical plant near Houston continues to burn out of control at this hour. The plant literally exploded into flames several hours ago, waking up residents, rattling windows up to five miles away. Apparently, no one hurt, but there have been evacuations.

We have Chief Jack Williams on the phone right now. He is from the Houston Fire Department -- Chief, are you there?

CHIEF JACK WILLIAMS, HOUSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT: Yes, I am.

COSTELLO: Tell me the situation right now.

WILLIAMS: Well, right now, we have about -- it's a 15-acre tract. It looks like we have probably, maybe three or four acres that are on fire. It's a chemical plant that makes solvents or lubricants. Right now, the cause of the fire is unknown. We have evacuated approximately 100 families in the general area. This is kind of a desolate area. There are not a whole lot of homes out here, fortunately.

COSTELLO: And we understand there are not many fire hydrants either.

WILLIAMS: I'm sorry -- I couldn't hear you.

COSTELLO: We understand there are not many fire hydrants around there either.

WILLIAMS: Actually there are no fire hydrants in the general area. So water is a little bit of a problem. Right now, we have got more or less a controlled burn. We are trying to keep the product from spreading to other locations. Pearland and Friendswood fire departments, and other departments that are on this location, they have contained all of the ditches, made sure that anything that gets into the ditches is contained in the general area around. So we feel real good about that right now.

COSTELLO: The air quality around there, we see that heavy, thick, black smoke coming off those flames. Is that dangerous to people? WILLIAMS: Not at this time. Actually, with the amount of wind we have and blowing, the smoke is moving on up into the atmosphere. We would advise that anybody that is in the area of the smoke, you know, to just go ahead and shelter inside their homes, not to stand outside in the smoke until we can verify that everything is safe.

COSTELLO: How many explosions have there been? And tell me how dangerous this is for firefighters to fight.

WILLIAMS: Well, I couldn't tell you the number of explosions. There have been several explosions, and they continue throughout the morning as we are here. You know, obviously this is a situation we are not going to put firefighters in there. Even with good water supplies. We are not going to get them up close. We don't have any life hazards right now that are (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We are going to protect our firefighters as well.

COSTELLO: Are you telling me that it's very difficult to get water anywhere from the Houston area, because of the drought, and that's one of the reasons you are just going to let it burn out?

WILLIAMS: No. What I'm telling you is that there are no fire hydrants in the area due to the desolate area that this is. This is not a well-developed area. So there is not a good water supply in the area.

COSTELLO: All right.

WILLIAMS: That's why we don't have the water supply. It's not because of the drought or anything like that.

COSTELLO: OK. We understand. Thank you for joining us this morning by phone.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Chief Jack Williams -- we'll let you get back to work. It's in Pearland, Texas, which is near Houston, and that chemical warehouse has been burning since about 1:30 this morning. We'll have more as we get it.

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