Fire at Wise Co. natural gas facility forces evacuations

Natural gas fire burning in Wise County

WISE COUNTY -- Evacuations are underway just outside Chico, Texas after a fire broke out on the site of a natural gas processing facility.

The Targa North Texas plant is located about 40 miles west of Denton in Wise County. The fire started at about 2:15 a.m. inside a compressor building at the facility.

"The plant, which is not involved in the fire, was immediately shut down per our emergency procedures and all employees were safely evacuated," Targa said in a release. "There were no injuries and everyone associated with the facility is accounted for. Emergency responders were notified."

Two employees were on site at the time, said area manager Jimmy Oxford. About 100 people work at the facility.

The fire was still burning as of 11 a.m. Officials hoped to let it burn itself out before they allow employees to reenter.

"We just don't have the resources up here on this side of the county to take care of something like this," said Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard, when asked why crews were letting the fire burn itself out.

Beard said there are limited hydrants in the area to help fight fires, and none near the facility. He said there was an explosion in the building where the fire started early Thursday morning, blowing the roof off. The fire was rather large, he said, and the building is a total loss.

Ten homes within a mile and a half radius of the facility were evacuated as a precaution.

"Sheriff's department came by this morning, about 3 a.m., and woke us up and told us Targa wanted to evacuate; they had a fire at the plant over there," said Fred Moore, who has lived next door to the facility for 34 years.

He said it was the first time he had been evacuated due to a safety concern at the plant, and there were no unsafe releases into the air.

The building where the fire started houses natural gas compressors that bring the gas from one pressure to another, said Oxford.

"We will not know the cause until the fire is out and we are able to conduct a complete investigation. County Road 1745, in close proximity to the plant is currently closed," Targa said.

The company says it doesn't believe facility operations will be impacted for more than a few days and hopes to partially reopen as early as Thursday afternoon.


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