A fire at Baze Chemical Plant, on FM 323, off Highway 84, late Saturday is under investigation. The origin had not been released as of Monday.
The blaze was called in at approximately 10:30 p.m. with Palestine Fire being the first responders on the scene with Ladder 1 and Engine 4, followed by 84 East Volunteer Department.
Palestine Fireman Devin Jackson, acting Battalion Chief at the time of the fire, was placed in command.
Baze Chemical, a ALKoxylation plant, producing chemicals for the oil and gas industry, mining industry, and water treatment industries, is located inside the former Calhoun Packing Plant facility.
According to Jackson, the flames were 75 feet in the air when they arrived and had to force entry through the front gate of the plant.
“The situation was extremely volatile when we arrived and remained that way until we were notified of the chemicals involved, especially because of the location of the fire in proximity to the production vessels and having no information on what was inside those vessels,” Jackson said. “It was definitely one of those situations where you go in and not know if you’re going to come out.”
There were three operators at the plant at the time of the fire that informed Jackson that the chemical in question was a liquid form of isobutryl chloride, a room temperature corrosive, colorless liquid.
Jackson said he quickly referenced the actions that needed to be taken in the Emergency Response Guide Book based, which recommended they evacuate a half-mile radius around the plant. At approximately 11:45 p.m. an emergency text message was sent ordering the evacuation of a half-mile radius to the Civic Center.
All roads around the plant were blocked until the fire was determined out at 11:50 p.m. North county volunteer fire departments were released at that time. Palestine Fire Department left the scene at 1:57 a.m. The 84 East and Slocum VFDs remained on scene until later that morning as a safety precaution.
According to Jackson, over 1,000 gallons of isobutryl chloride were released, however there was no danger of toxic fumes being released into the atmosphere due to the fact the chemical properties of the liquid are heavier than air, which causes it to hover close to the ground. The company's three pit fire containment system kept the released chemicals from spreading to other areas of the plant where other high flammable toxic chemicals are located.
Twenty-seven fire units responded from 10 different agencies, as well as the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, State Troopers and Emergency Management Coordinators for the city and county.
Over 11,000 gallons of water were used between all the trucks to put out the fire.
Jackson noted that Baze has a deluge system that appeared to operate properly and contained the blaze prior to them arriving.
All firefighters were decontaminated and vitals were taken before they were allowed to leave the scene.
Jackson encouraged everyone to register with the county’s Code RED App, which provides the community with emergency alerts. The app was used and worked well in evacuating the area that night.
A spokesperson for Baze Chemical was unavailable for comment Monday.