Firefighters evacuate people living near fire at Kenedy drilling fluids facility

No injuries reported, Kenedy Police Chief says

Karnes County Sheriff's Office

KENEDY, Texas – Updated Monday at 5:55 p.m.:

A temporary shelter was moved Monday from Kenedy City Hall to the Kenedy High School Dumont gym, District 3 Councilman Brandon Briones said.

Original story:

Several agencies are working to extinguish a large fire at a drilling fluids facility in Kenedy.

The Karnes County Sheriff's Office posted to Facebook on Sunday evening, warning people to avoid the area as first responders battle flames at Newpark Drilling Fluids in the 300 block of North Sunset Strip.

Kenedy police Chief Duane DuBose said firefighters were called to the fluids facility around 4:45 p.m. and have been battling the flames for at least three hours.

The sheriff's office said the building that caught fire is an old Walmart that has been repurposed as a drilling fluids facility.

DuBose said authorities haven't determined the cause of the fire and have called the State Fire Marshall's Office and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to assist in the investigation. 

Workers in the facility told authorities that they saw the fire and thought they could put it out with fire extinguishers, but the fire became too big to manage.

DuBose said that most nearby businesses and apartments were evacuated, but that the smoke became too thick to ensure that residents of an apartment complex and an RV park had all evacuated.

DuBose said Bexar County's Emergency Management team was called in to assess whether the chemicals were harmful to the people in the area. He said that preliminary findings indicate that people living in the area are not at immediate risk.

According to the Newpark website, the company is a "global technical leader in fluid systems and matting products." DuBose said that the facility houses various chemicals.

Officials in Karnes County took an all-hands-on-deck approach to fighting the fire. DuBose said units from Karnes County, Falls City, Runge, Bee City and other nearby cities and counties were dispatched to the scene and that other units from neighboring areas are on standby to help with any other fires that may occur in the county while firefighters respond to the Newpark fire.

"I've been here for over 15 years and inside the city, this is the biggest (response I've ever seen)," DuBose said. "This (is) everybody on deck."

DuBose said the water department is on site monitoring the water supply. 

A temporary shelter has been established at City of Kenedy's City Hall at 303 W. Main St.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.