Texas Chemical Plant Explosion and Fire Prompts Shelter-in-Place Order

A massive explosion at a chemical plant in Shepherd, Texas caused a large fire and engulfed the area with thick, black smoke, prompting evacuations and a shelter-in-place order for the area.

The explosion at Sound Resource Solutions, a petroleum processing plant, took place on Wednesday morning, according to San Jacinto County officials. One employee suffered minor burns due to the fire, San Jacinto County officials said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

“We have preliminary investigations done on what initially happened but we want to verify everything,” said Geoff Harfield, president of Sound Resource Solutions, during the press conference. Harfield added that they’ve been “overly cautious about the situation,” while thanking first responders for helping residents in the area.

Residents living within a five-mile radius of the incident were instructed to shelter in place, but that radius has since been reduced to one mile. The Polk County Emergency Management Office warned people to turn off their HVAC systems as they investigate what is at stake.

Wildwood Academy, a private school on Farm-to-Market Road 1127, had to be evacuated to the Shepherd Administration Building, according to the San Jacinto County Office of Emergency Management. Highway 59 is also currently closed due to fire.

It’s “unknown” what impact the chemicals that have been released into the air will have, according to Polk County officials, but according to a Wednesday press release, the chemicals released could have “acute toxicity, carcinogenicity, and reproductive toxicity, and may cause serious eye damage or eye irritation, skin corrosion or irritation, aspiration hazard, and organ toxicity.” The plant produces about 30 truckloads of goods a day.

Contact us at letters@time.com.