Texas Plastic Plant Fire Burns for Hours

Three warehouses at a Channelview plastic manufacturing plant went up in flames Saturday in a multi-alarm blaze that took all day and into the night to extinguish, KPRC Local 2 reported.

Firefighters from 12 departments battled the large fire at Tex-Trude LP, 2001 Sheldon Road, which began at about 2:30 p.m.

Vickie Dearman was one of a handful of employees who witnessed the buildings go up in smoke.

"Flames were just shooting 60 to 70 feet in the air," Dearman said. "But it seemed like an eternity before they finally got water on it."

It seemed like an eternity because fire officials said there was an insufficient water supply. They had to shuttle water to the blaze in order to fight it.

Heavy, black smoke could be seen from all over the Houston area. The wind carried the smoke over the city of LaPorte. However, it also stayed high in the atmosphere and did not pose a problem for citizens, officials said.

Annell Martinez could only watch as her workplace of seven years became engulfed in flames and a massive column of smoke.

"It's like your heart is in your gut," Martinez said. "It's just like your heart has been ripped out. You've worked very hard. We've all worked very hard and to see it it's just heart-wrenching."

Firefighters went into defense mode as warehouses continued to burn into the night.

"Sounded like a transformer, but from what I understand, (from) the guys in plants, it was something in our reprocessing line," Dearman said. "We have a washer and a dryer line and a repro line where we actually reprocess plastic. It was something in that department."

Firefighters said no other buildings were in danger and all of the 20 employees working at the time had been accounted for.

But now hundreds of workers are uncertain of their future.

"It's a privately owned company and we're just all family, and I see our family going up in flames," Martinez said.

"We've got 250 people that, what are they going to do Monday? We don't know," Dearman said.

The plastic manufacturer makes polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, including construction film, newspaper bags, industrial bags, cotton bale bags, furniture bags, poly wrap for the United States Postal Service and flame-retardant tubing.

Tex-Trude LP is a privately held business that has been in operation since 1952. There are three divisions operating out of the manufacturing complex: polyethylene brown film, PVC profile extrusion and PVC flexible compounding.

Tex-Trude has approximately 200 employees, and in 2005 sales exceeded $55 million. The manufacturer's products are sold nationwide.

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