Updated throughout at 6 p.m.
A massive fire that broke out overnight at a plastics plant in Grand Prairie early Wednesday is likely to continue burning for at least two days, officials say.
The inferno began about midnight at Poly-America at 2000 W. Marshall Drive when a power line fell onto a storage area containing plastic sheeting, said Bill Murphy, assistant chief of the Grand Prairie Fire Department. He said a rail car caught on fire and then the blaze spread from there.
No injuries have been reported and no official evacuations were ordered, but he said people with underlying health problems should avoid the area.
“The flames aren’t as big,” Murphy said. “Our biggest problem is this is a lot of plastic. It burns very hot. You’ve got to have a lot of foam to put on it. … There’s just not enough foam to put on this large of a fire.”
Poly-America produces trash bags and other plastic products and describes itself as “the most technologically advanced and largest recycler and compounder of polyethylene in the world.”
Several fires have broken out at the facility in the past, Murphy said. Thirty-two years ago, a fire erupted under similar circumstances. He said other fires have broken out inside the facility in previous years, but none of the magnitude of Wednesday’s or the one several decades ago.
The company did not respond to requests for comment, though a person who answered the business’s phone Wednesday afternoon said the inquiries would be passed along.
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Fire officials are concerned that more power lines will fall as the fire continues to burn. Oncor shut off the towers in the area, but it’s “not a matter of if, but when” they collapse, Murphy said.
“Once one goes, it could pull all the lines down for up to half a mile,” he said. “It’s one of those things where we don’t know what’s going to happen when it finally does happen. That’s our biggest danger.”
Murphy said the department’s best guess is that the power line that fell was damaged during a storm earlier this week.
Residents in the area reported sporadic power outages early Wednesday as the fire spread. Oncor said it had rerouted power in the surrounding communities, and by 6 p.m., about two dozen individual outages remained.
“Personnel, including engineer and construction teams, have been on site since the early hours this morning, and we are continuing to work closely with the Grand Prairie Fire Department and other first responders,” Connie Piloto, director of communications for Oncor, said in a written statement. “The safety of our crews, the first responders and the public remains our highest priority and we ask all local residents to please stay away from the immediate area.”
Alexandria Dave, who lives about nine blocks from where the fire was burning, said a friend called her about 12:30 a.m. to tell her about it. She heard explosions soon after that.
She said she’s worried about her neighbors, many of whom are older or have health problems that may be worsened by the smoke. Some residents can’t afford to relocate while the fire is extinguished.
“This community has been hit now in all different directions,” Dave said. “You got COVID going on, children at home and these people cannot migrate anywhere. They have to stay at home.”
She said she’d gone to look at the fire, but even from inside her home, she can see and smell the smoke.
After the fire erupted, some Poly-America crew members were sent home, but many are still working in the building, Murphy said.
He said the fire is several hundred feet from the rest of the building, so even if the towers do collapse over the next few days, there is enough space between the power lines and the building that it won’t be in any danger.
Crews with the Dallas, Fort Worth and DFW International Airport fire departments have helped to contain the fire, Murphy said. State and local environmental officials will be evaluating the fire’s impact.
Video from the scene early Wednesday showed a huge plume of black smoke billowing into the night sky. The smoke was reportedly visible throughout North Texas, at least as far as just north of Waco.
Grand Prairie Mayor Ron Jensen said the city’s fire department did an “exemplary job” handling the fire, and he thanked the other departments that turned out to help.
“We are thankful to Addison, Dallas and Fort Worth fire for sending their foam trucks, which were instrumental in fighting a fire of this nature,” Jensen said in a written statement. “We are grateful to all the many fire departments from neighboring cities who are helping either at the incident site or in responding to other calls in Grand Prairie.
“Thank goodness the wind is blowing the smoke away from immediate neighborhoods, and we continue to monitor air quality to provide reassurance among residents.”
Gov. Greg Abbott said the state was monitoring the fire and working with local officials to address safety concerns.
“The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Grand Prairie officials are continually checking air quality conditions and the state will provide any necessary resources to the area,” he said. “I ask Texans in the Grand Prairie community to heed the guidance of local officials and pray for the safety of the first responders combating the fire.”