BRYAN - Thousands of people were ordered to leave their home and offices as a toxic fire raged Thursday afternoon Bryan.
1,000 people still ordered to evacuate
Red Cross has a shelter set up at Reed Arena. Pearce Pavilion has opened for evacuees with pets
The Community Emergency Operations center asks that you call 979-891-1042 with all routine service calls instead of 911.
Highway 21 closed between FM 2818 and Highway 47
Texas A&M issued a Code Maroon: campus closed.
Hospital reports: St. Joseph's: 22 patients The Med: 10 patients
At one point officials told almost the entire City of Bryan, nearly 70,000 people to evacuate. Nearly 800 people sought refuge in the Reed Arena, an estimated 300 people were expected to stay the night. Others filled A&M Consolidated Middle School and Pearce Pavilion while other still clogged the streets out of town, just trying to get south of the blaze.
At 8:40 p.m. the Incident Commander reported the fire was still smoldering.
"The good news," he said "is the danger for an explosion is for the most part over. Now it's all about making sure it's safe for people to return and safe for the environment."
As the situation eased, officials scaled back the number of mandatory evacuations. As of 8:50 p.m., only about 1,000 people were affected by the evacuations.
The evacuation zone is bordered by OSR to the west, Sandy Point Road to the north, Harvey Mitchel Parkway to the east, Leonard Road and Highway 47 to the south. The roads are all closed.
John Carver with El Dorado Chemicals reports the plant on Highway 21 is a "typical dry blend fertilizer" facility. He reports a crew was welding in an empty ammonia nitrate storage bin when a spark started a small, smoldering fire.
Two workers were in the building at the time of the fire; both escaped uninjured.
Firefighters quickly responded to the scene only to discover they could not use water to battle the fire.
"Our normal mode of operation is to be very aggressive to get water on the fire as quickly as possible in this situation water isn't our friend if we put water on the fire it creates more of a problem the chemicals are water reactive it spreads the fire and in some cases it can intensify it to the point of exploding," said Bryan Fire Chief Mike Donaho.
A HAZMAT team from the U.S. Army was training in the area when the fire started; and were quickly diverted to the scene of the fire. A team from the Environmental Protection Agency was deployed to measure air quality using aircraft and also en route to the fire.
Officials at Coulter Field, just south of Highway 21 from the fire reported the airport was closed to incoming traffic; the entire area was restricted to a no-fly zone.
St. Joseph's Hospital accepted 22 patients before moving to divert status. The College Station Medical Center reported it received 10 patients, all suffering from breathing difficulties. The Med also ordered a "code yellow," meaning all personnel were called into prepare for victims from the external disaster.
Texas A&M University issued a Code Maroon telling faculty and staff that classes were canceled and campus is closed.
Due to the fire, the City of Bryan compost facility was evacuated. The City reported the evacuation "may cause some interruption in service for the City's residential brush and bulky collection today." They say any trash not picked up Thursday will be collected as soon as possible.
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