Nightly News   |  October 03, 2011

Texas blaze shoots plumes of black smoke

A fire sparked as workers mixed chemicals at a plant south of Dallas shot massive plumes of black smoke and bright orange flames into the sky Monday. NBC’s Jay Gray reports from Waxahachie, Texas.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: In Texas , a huge chemical fire is still burning tonight about 30 miles south of Dallas . This was covered live today as it happened, too, and it has brought the EPA to the scene because of what could be in the cloud of smoke that has spread for miles, say nothing to what happened on and in the ground. NBC 's Jay Gray is outside the plant for us tonight. Jay , good evening.

JAY GRAY reporting: Good evening, Brian . The fire has been burning and continues to burn at this point, started mid-morning. Firefighters say it's at least 85 percent contained at this point. They believe right now that a chemical reaction likely sparked the blaze. Now for several hours flames swallowed parts of the Magnablend plant. Eighty-five people were evacuated. And when you see the intense flames here, it's hard to believe, but there were no serious injuries. A company website indicate Magnablend manufactures about 200 chemical products used by industries ranging from oil field services to industrial cleaning. And that website says that some of those products are considered hazardous. At one point chemicals poured from the building, moving a river of fire toward these train tracks and tankers filled with highly flammable fuel. Fire teams were able to stop that tide. But as the flames washed up against the rail cars an elementary school was evacuated; so were a college, homes and businesses in the area. In all, about 1,000 people were moved to safety. Brian , as you indicated, the EPA is in the area. They've started field tests here, testing the air; they'll also test the ground once things cool down. Right now they say they have found nothing that indicates there's a serious safety hazard here. Those evacuated should be able to return by this evening.

Brian: And, Jay , that smoke cloud was so big the folks at our Dallas-Fort Worth station said it showed up on radar like a weather event today in the sky. Jay Gray , Waxahachie , Texas , the scene of that fire, thanks.