ATHENS, Texas -
A Thursday night fire that sparked at a fertilizer storage facility is almost out, but it made for several tense hours for people living nearby.
The blaze began around 5:45 p.m. and police cordoned off a five-block radius from the Larkin Street facility. No injuries have been reported. Mayor Jerry Don Vaught told FOX 4 on Thursday night that the facility is used by East Texas Ag Supply and holds ammonium nitrate that is delivered there weekly, but he was unsure of how much was there when the fire sparked.
The facility is a wood-framed building. Its owner has been contacted.
Because of the ammonium nitrate, firefighters couldn’t use water and instead, let the fire burn. Vaught added that the town's fire and police departments were well-prepared to handle the fire and had undergone a lot of training since the April 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West.
Vaught said that no employees were in the storage facility when the fire started, and the cause of the fire isn’t known yet. He added the facility is in compliance with state regulations.
Vaught said the town is waiting on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to arrive and evaluate the air before people are allowed back in their homes.
Two shelters have been set up for about 300 to 350 evacuated residents, with bus services to the shelters leaving from the Athens High School parking lot, Gates Community Church and the Goodwill.
No one had arrived at the shelters as of 10:30 p.m. Thursday.
"To tell you the truth, I was all like...not trying to breathe that, you know?" said Athens resident Alan Chavez. "It was crazy. I thought it was gonna explode and I was gonna be running."
The facility is situated alongside the Union Pacific railroad tracks, about three blocks from the Henderson County Courthouse at the center of the town's business district. Vaught said the building has been around for more than 50 years and has always served as a fertilizer storage facility. "I was doing a lot of praying," Vaught said upon how he felt hearing news of the fire. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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