Backyard fire ignites massive warehouse blaze in west Houston
Hazardous materials burn in fire; area school, businesses forced to evacuate
SPRING BRANCH, Texas – Firefighters battled a huge warehouse fire in Spring Branch Thursday.
The four-alarm fire broke out just before 10 a.m. in the backyard of a home that served as an auto service company, Houston fire officials said. The fire spread to a nearby business complex in the 1700 block of Laverne Drive that holds Custom Packaging and Filling, a gun shop and several other companies.
Multiple explosions could be seen coming from inside one of the buildings in the complex.
According to Custom Packaging's website the business is "the chief chemical contract packager, specializing in quality service for all types of customers." Officials said petroleum and pesticides are housed in the building. It is unclear what other substances are inside. They are waiting for property owners to identify the combustible products.
The Office of Emergency Management Chief Rick Flanagan said winds were a factor in fighting the fire.
The Houston Fire Department confirms 175 firefighters with 64 HFD units were on the scene fighting the flames.
No injuries were reported.
Fire department sources told KPRC 2's Ryan Korsgard that firefighters were being told to watch out for ammunition.
Spring Branch Elementary was evacuated as a result of the fire, according to the Spring Branch ISD police Chief Chuck Brawner. Six-hundred-fifty students as well as 80 staff members and faculty were taken by bus to the Coleman Community Coliseum located at 1050 Dairy Ashford Road. Parents were notified to pick children up at the coliseum.
Officials said children were given food and water as they waited for guardians to arrive. Student's whose parents could not pick them up remained at the coliseum, according to Spring Branch ISD spokesperson Steve Brunsman. Buses took the children home who were not picked up, he said.
A shelter in place was issued for the Spring Branch area and lifted four hours later.
Felipe, who lives nearby, said crews started evacuating his neighborhood. He said he’s afraid of the toxic chemicals and for his home.
“I think it’s gone. I’m 20 feet away from them. There’s nothing you can do about it,” he said about his home.
Willie, another resident who lives close to the warehouse, described what it felt like for him as the fire burned.
“The explosions all you can hear. You can feel the heat,” he said. “It feels like you’re in an oven. You heard the little bombs. “
Willie said he was inside his home when the fire started. Shortly after, he could hear popping sounds, he said.
He said he’s lived in his home for 25 years and that won’t change any time soon.
“I’m not leaving my house. We’re not leaving our house. I’m not leaving my house. No, I’m on private property, it’s my property,” he said.
Nearby businesses were also evacuated the area.
As crews worked to put the fire out, residents and those nearby questioned a red substance that flowed through a creek near the burning warehouse. The HFD Haz Mat team, Harris County Haz Mat team and Houston Heath Department Environmental Services Division, who were monitoring the water runoff and air quality in the area, said the substance is an additive and should no be dangerous.