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Brief fire flares up at chemical plant hours after three-day fire was extinguished

Chemical plant fire flares up

A fire was quickly extinguished Wednesday at a Houston-area petrochemicals just hours after a three-day long fire had been extinguished at the same site. Thick black smoke filled the air at Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), but fire crews attacked the flames quickly and had the fire out in less than a minute, the city of Deer Park tweeted Wednesday. 

An ITC spokeswoman told CBS Houston affiliate KHOU-TV reports flareups aren't unexpected and could happen again.  

She said it was likely caused by a small amount of vaporization mixing with extremely hot metal on the tank.

Firefighters are expected to stay on the scene until the danger has passed.

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner cautioned "just because the fire is out doesn't mean that the monitoring won't continue."

The original fire started Sunday, damaging 11 storage tanks, until firefighters went on the offensive on Tuesday night. No injuries were reported in the three-day fire, and ITC insisted Wednesday air quality readings remained "well below hazardous levels." 

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said at a news conference Tuesday that monitors showed the plume coming from the site in Deer Park, southeast of Houston, was reaching at least 4,000 feet up and staying high enough so that the air quality at ground level was safe.  

"It's understandable why people would be scared," said Hidalgo, the county's top administrator. "We're sharing information with the public so that everybody knows what we know, what we're doing and where we're headed."

But Jorge Guerra, who lives three miles away, told CBS News he had seen "black pieces of ash" flying out of the fire. 

"I've seen it on my cars, I've seen it on the front porch on the sidewalk," Guerra said. "Does that scare you? It does, it does. What scares me more is what we don't see."