A raging fire at Magnablend Chemical Plant in Waxahachie, south of Dallas, sent black smoke billowing into the sky and prompted area schools to evacuate students.
Officials at the scene told WFAA-TV there are contaminates in the air that are dangerous to breathe in as a result of the fire.
Huge orange flames and plumes of smoke were seen at the Magnablend Chemical Plant facility in Waxahachie, about 30 miles south of Dallas.
Several large explosions were also reported from the facility.
Ellis County emergency management authorities issued an evacuation order for an apartment complex, an elementary school and a junior college.
Waxahachie Independent School District spokeswoman Nicole Mansell said Wedgeworth Elementary School students had been safely bussed to another school’s gymnasium by 12:25pm.
Navarro College cancelled all classes for its 2,500 or so students, school president Dr. Richard Sanchez told the Star-Telegram.
Sheriff’s officials urged residents not to drive toward the area of the fire.
In addition, area residents are being told to stay inside their homes – and to keep doors and windows shut.
Jessenia Colin, an assistant general manager at a nearby Hampton Inn and Suites, said hotel staff members were turning off air vents so smoke and chemicals didn’t enter the rooms.
As they waited for news and watched the smoke billow, staff covered their mouths to protect against the heavy chemical smell that hung in the air, she said.
Jessenia Colin said: “It smells like a whole bunch of chemicals, like wrappers burning. It’s making everyone’s heads hurt.”
Stephanie Otto said she was preparing her new restaurant for a Tuesday opening about a quarter-mile from the plant when she heard sirens and walked outside to see a “huge plume.” She said she could hear what sounded like gun shots for about 15 minutes, and there was a strong smell of ammonia.
Stephanie Otto said: “It was huge. It looked like an atomic bomb went off.”
Lisa Wheeler, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokeswoman said that the plant deals with ammonia, as well as sulfuric, hydrochloric, nitric and phosphoric acids.
It mixes the chemicals for fertilizer and agricultural products.
Waxahachie Police Lt. Joe Wiser tells the Fort Worth Star-Telegram no injuries have been reported since the fire was reported at 10:40 a.m.
Images from WFAA-TV show the fast-moving fire engulfing a fire truck at the scene as firefighters nearby battle the blaze.
Magnablend Chemical Plant official Donald Golden told the station:
“My main concern when I got here was ensuring that everyone got out of the plant and were accounted for, which they are, everyone is safe at this time.
“That was the best news I got so far. Now, were just waiting to hear from the fire department as they respond to the fire.”
Magnablend’s website says it’s a chemical manufacturing company that makes custom chemicals for industries ranging from oil fields to industrial cleaning.