On Friday, December 3, 2004 at approximately 6:00 PM, the Houston Fire Department responded to a large fire in a chemical complex on the far southwest side of the city. The plant contained large quantities of polyethylene which was being used in the manufacture of wax.
Numerous explosions occurred during the fire with some of the explosions reportedly being felt as far as twenty miles away. The explosions damaged several houses and buildings near the complex. Flames and smoke could be seen for miles in the night sky.
Nearby residents were evacuated or asked to shelter-in-place as a precaution. Train traffic on a nearby railroad track was halted during the incident.
A three alarm response of over 120 firefighters and over 40 pieces of apparatus was needed to control the fire.
Responding apparatus were forced to negotiate many small streets to access the complex. Lack of nearby fire hydrants and low water pressure in the area also hindered firefighter's efforts.
The fire was fought in a defensive mode with ladder pipes and deck guns. Ladder pipes were also used to provide cooling for overhead storage tanks in the complex.
A warehouse on the complex contained large amounts of wax which melted during the fire and flowed into the parking lot resulting in a runoff of wax several inches deep in the parking lot.
One pumper had to be abandoned when its wheels became mired in the wax and could not move. Two firefighters were injured while fighting the fire and were treated at area hospitals.
Environmental crews were on scene to help contain the runoff of water from firefighting efforts. No long term environmental problems are expected from the fire.