Explosion, fire stirs up Nixon residents' fears

Evacuation called after plant fire injured two workers

NIXON, Texas - People in the city of Nixon in Gonzales County are wondering whether they’re safe in their homes after an explosion and fire that rocked their neighborhood and injured two workers.

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According to Glenn Lohse, the city’s fire marshal, the explosion and fire happened around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday at Vann Energy in the 200 block of E. Eighth Ave.  He said it was in an area where the company cleans tanks used in oil field fracturing, or “fracking.”

Two workers reportedly suffered serious burns and were flown by AirLife to San Antonio Military Medical Center.  As of noon, no information was available on their conditions.

Nixon’s police chief and the chief of city’s volunteer fire department both responded to the incident, but they said they had no information to release.

A worker who answered the phone at Vann Energy’s office said the company also had no comment at this time. However, the incident is the talk of the town in Nixon.

Dozens of residents evacuated their homes after being awakened by the loud explosion.

“I looked out and all I saw was a big ball of fire,” said Irma Enriquez, who lives across the street from the plant. “I woke up my family and we all came out.  And that's when everybody came out of our neighborhood."

Enriquez said was finally admitted back to her home about 90 minutes later. 

Now she wonders just how safe it is. 

"It was pretty scary,” she said. “It was just, like, ‘Pow!' Like something snapped and crackled.”

Until now, the biggest worry for residents had been the constant stream of big rigs on nearby Highway 80, carrying materials to and from oil fields.

“They really scare me,” said Debbie Gordon. “You try pulling out on the road in front of one. You better step on the gas.”

Gordon lives across the highway from Vann Energy and did not have to evacuate. Still, she said it was a frightening sight to wake up to.

“(The fire) was high. It was clear to those trees and way up above,” Gordon said. “We're just hoping it doesn't happen again."

While neighbors hope it will be the last emergency like this, it’s not Vann Energy’s first time of trouble.

A news release issued in February by the U. S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the company was cited for 17 serious violations that had to do with working conditions for employees who clean the tanks.

Lohse said OSHA, as well as the state fire marshal and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, will be involved in the investigation concerning the latest incident.


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