A large fire broke out Sunday evening around 7:42 p.m. at the Nan Ya Plastics plant in Wharton at Highway 59 and FM 102.

Authorities said there were no injuries and all personnel and employees are safe and accounted for.

According to Fire Chief Anthony Abbott of the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department, the fire started with a heat exchanger on the first floor.

“It started burning up from the first floor to the second floor where they store some of their PVC pellets,” Abbott said.

It then reached the third floor where flames and smoke became visible for long distances.

“We put out a call for mutual aid to El Campo, Hungerford, East Bernard and Glen Flora for more men and equipment,” Abbott said, adding that Eagle Lake provided back-up at the Wharton station.

Other departments responding included Midfield and Needville. Abbott said the three-alarm fire was contained within three hours, followed by mop-up efforts to help cool equipment. The fire did flare up again Monday morning at 7:12 a.m. but was quickly extinguished.

“They have these bags of pellets, about 1,000 pounds each, and one of them was smoldering through the night,” Abbott said.

He said the fire was contained to one unit at the plant.

Five families were evacuated from their homes nearby on Wilkes and Mattie streets. They were allowed to return Monday morning.

Abbott estimated that about 70 firefighters and 15 units responded to the fire, along with support from the Wharton Police Department, Wharton County Sheriff’s Office, Precinct 2 Constable’s Office, Wharton County EMS and other agencies. He said there were three tower (ladder) trucks and six pumpers used on the blaze.

Abbott said any carcinogens from the fire were either contained in runoff in pits on site or were disbursed in the smoke, which was rapidly spread in high wind. He said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had representatives on site out of concern for potential pollutants.

He said the fire remains under investigation.

At Monday night’s Wharton City Council meeting, the council formally appointed interim emergency management coordinator Lt. Ben Guanajuato to the permanent position. They then asked him for an update on the fire.

“They kept referring to plant one as the one that was on fire,” Guanajuato said. “The management in Nan Ya Plastics has given a lot of praise to the local fire departments here because they were able to save the other structures around it. Due to the high winds, they were really afraid that the fire was going to spread. The winds were extremely horrible and the fire was bad but everything was contained.”

Guanajuato said there are no lingering environmental concerns from the fire.

“After speaking to … the TCEQ, the environmental people, they’re not concerned with any kind of hazmat or any kind of environmental danger … because they feel like everything was contained,” he said. “I did not know that they had a basement that big and large enough to contain that amount of water they poured into that fire, and the chemical, but it is contained, everything was contained. Nothing leaked up to the river or to our ditches or anything, everything is there.”

Guanajuato said the cause of the fire has been determined.

“They have pinpointed where it started. They know how it started. It was mechanical failure, a pot ruptured and it just started from there,” he said.

He said the investigation is almost complete and that the facility will be repaired.

“As far as investigating, state fire marshals were contacted, but they are pleased with what they already found with the internal investigation. I believe that now they’re waiting on is their insurance investigation... And once that goes, they’re gonna start rebuilding. That’s what they’re saying. But as far as jobs being lost, today I was told that there will not be any jobs lost at that location.”

Attempts to contact the company for comment were unsuccessful at press time.

Nan Ya Plastics USA a division of Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics. The Wharton site manufactures PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) and APET (amorphous polyethylene terephthalate) rigid films.

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