On the morning of June 23, 1995, a seven-alarm fire broke out in a chemical storage warehouse owned by Houston Distribution Inc. in the residential neighborhood of Pleasantville. The fire burned uncontrolled for a day while the fire department attempted to understand what chemicals were present in the warehouse and what threats they posed.
Residents of Pleasantville remember the day of the fire starting with a frightening explosion at the Houston Distribution Inc. (also referred to as Houston Distributing Co.) Warehouse at 8500 Market Street. Barrels were projected 90 – 150 feet into the air, followed by a dark cloud of billowing smoke that quickly blanketed the neighborhood. The fire started around 8:30 a.m. and spread to two other nearby buildings.
While two-thirds of the city’s firefighters were sent to battle the flames, they were delayed by the realization that no one but the companies who used the warehouse knew exactly what types of chemicals were stored there. As soon as the fire department learned that organic peroxides were in the building, and that another explosion might be imminent, they retreated, to let the fire burn itself out. Residents were highly encouraged to voluntarily evacuate as well, and within a few hours, many had left the neighborhood or taken shelter in the elementary school. Although the fire burned itself out by Sunday morning, officials urged residents on Sunday to evacuate or stay indoors, as potentially toxic fumes from the fire still hung over the neighborhood. An evacuation center was set up at the Denver Harbor Park gym at 6500 Market St. Following the fire and its aftermath, Houston City Councilman Michael Yarborough urged the state Legislature to enact laws to prohibit the storage of dangerous materials in certain proximities to residential areas. One fire truck was destroyed in the blaze.
Listen to Cleophus Sharp recall the explosion at the Houston Distrubution Inc chemical wearhouse.
To watch this video with transcript, click here.