PORT ARTHUR - A tank fire inside the Valero refinery in Port Arthur triggered a shelter-in-place for residents on the west side of the city for several hours.
A "heavy oil" storage tank caught fire at about 11:50 a.m., Tuesday, according to a spokesperson from the Valero Port Arthur Refinery.
The fire in the refinery, located near the intersection of Highways 82 and 87 in west Port Arthur, was preceded by a loud explosion according to witnesses.
As of 2:45 p.m. the City of Port Arthur reported that Highway 82 remains closed from Highway 87 to 7th Street.
Emergency crews from within the refinery responded and were assisted by the Port Arthur Fire Department as Valero contacted and cooperated with local authorities and agencies the spokesperson said.
A shelter-in-place for nearby residents was ordered as a cautionary measure the spokesperson said adding that the safety of its workers and the community was important to Valero.
James Davis lives nearby the plant by Booker T. Washington Elementary, he said he heard a loud boom this afternoon as he was cleaning up his home.
"I was inside working in my house gathering things and all of a sudden I heard a boom. I thought someone hit the house and went outside and checked and it was nothing and next thing I know people start talking about black smoke," said Davis.
There were no injuries reported and all employees have been accounted for according to the spokesperson.
The shelter-in-place order was lifted just before 2 p.m. according to the City of Port Arthur
A large column of thick black smoke could be seen rising from inside the refinery until about 1 p.m. when it changed from black to yellow and then to grey.
"When I first seen it, it looked like something exploded...you could see smoke clearly it was a big ole cloud in the sky," said resident Alonzo Green.
A worker in the refinery told 12News that a "partial shelter-in-place" was ordered inside the plant.
Several Port Arthur schools in the area were also placed under a shelter-in-place including Dowling, Memorial 9th Grade Academy, Lincoln, PAAC, and Washington, according to the Port Arthur Independent School District.
This is a developing story. We will update with more as soon as we receive confirmed information.
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