Fire out, cleanup begins at Shepherd chemical plant

Photo courtesy of Cleveland Fire Department

The fire is out and the investigation is continuing at the Sound Resource Solutions chemical plant in Shepherd, the site of a massive explosion on Wednesday.

The fire, which was reported to authorities at 8:17 a.m. and caused shelter in place advisories in San Jacinto and Polk counties, was finally extinguished around 6 p.m. Wednesday, though fire crews put out a few spot fires in the early morning hours on Thursday.

According to Emmitt Eldridge, a spokesperson for the San Jacinto County Fire Marshal’s Office, a private Hazmat company has secured the leaking chemicals, and fire crews remained on scene while the chemicals were transferred.

Eldridge said investigators for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are conducting their own investigation and will release the results on a later date.

“They don’t believe there is anything criminal about the explosion,” said Eldridge, based on his discussions with ATF. “They have some speculation that the fire was sparked by a forklift, and employees are saying that as well.”

When the fire erupted, there were 19 employees on the site. All escaped unharmed except one who suffered burns to his face and arms.

“The ATF and the property owner have been talking to him at the hospital. He seems to be doing well and is expected to recover,” Eldridge said.

Eldridge dismissed rumors that there was another explosion at the scene overnight.

“I was out here all night and there wasn’t another explosion,” he said. “We did end up working a fatal accident scene though on US 59.”

On behalf of the Fire Marshal’s Office, Eldridge offered deep gratitude to all the firefighters and emergency personnel who assisted at the scene.

“We would like to extend our thanks to Jack in the Box in Shepherd, McDonalds in Cleveland, Chick-fil-A in Livingston, and others who donated food and water resources. Thanks also to Polk County Sheriff’s Office for providing additional resources for scene safety, Shepherd ISD for assisting with the evacuation of the private school (Wildwood Academy), the community for cooperating during this trying time, and the media for being understanding and patient with us while we sought information and answers,” Eldridge said.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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