Last Wednesday, March 15, in the early evening, the residents of Pasadena saw a thick black smoke cover the sky. The LyondellBasell Houston Refinery had caught fire.
We learned about the fire at 7:46 pm, when a nearby community member forwarded us the above photo. He told us that there was no message on the CAER line at that point.
As usual, we checked Twitter for the most up-to-date information. By 7:58 pm, KPRC Ch. 2 had this video and story, which attributed the fire to the LyondellBasell Houston refinery and stated that no injuries had occurred:
— KPRC 2 Houston (@KPRC2) March 16, 2017
At 8:21, we saw this video from a nearby tweeter:
— Glenda (@yeahhjakelin) March 16, 2017
LyondellBasell quickly released a statement indicating that a cooling tower had burned and no petrochemical products were involved. Later that evening, LyondellBasell sent the following message to the leader of the Pasadena Citizens Advisory Council.
I am writing you concerning the fire at our Houston Refinery on 12000 Lawndale Street earlier tonight, March 15. The fire occurred at approximately 7 p.m. in a cooling tower. The cooling tower chills down hot water to a lower temperature. Our on-site firefighting team and incident response personnel quickly contained fire and it was extinguished at 9:30 this evening.
There were no injuries and air monitoring conducted throughout the incident by LyondellBasell demonstrated no levels of concern for the community.
A thorough investigation will be conducted as to the cause of the fire. I realize this incident may have been upsetting to you or members of your family and I am sorry for any concern or inconvenience it may have caused. If you have any questions please contact Scott Buchman at Scott.Buchman@LYB.com
Houston Refinery Site Manager
After the fact, this event seems to have been contained and well handled. It’s disappointing to see accidents of any kind, and LyondellBasell has had some problems in recent months. But no one was injured in this fire, and there doesn’t seem to have been much confusion about what happened or who was at risk. Still, its disappointing that the CAER line was not used as it should have been.
This is another incident where a modern wireless emergency alert system would have helped. HB 1927 would create such a system statewide. We are supporting this bill and we encourage you to call your representatives and ask them to support it as well.