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The fire at El Dorado Chemical started late yesterday afternoon and spread to the warehouse and distribution area. The company makes fertilizers and toxic chemicals, including ammonium nitrate, which is used to make explosives. City of Bryan spokeswoman April Saginor says the fire put out a lot of smoke so thousands of people living in a five square mile area around the plant were ordered to evacuate. "Certainly there were people who did not heed that order. We think at our peak we had about 1100 people in shelter. We also had some people who chose to stay in hotels or go to neighboring College Station and stay with friends or relatives."
Saginor says no injuries were reported, but about three dozen people needed treatment for minor breathing problems. She says they've heard that the fire may have been started by a welder, but no one knows for sure and local and state investigators are now trying to find the cause. "The Texas Commission on Environmental quality is out there right now and they will be doing an environmental assessment. Our fire investigators are also looking into the cause of the fire and any far-reaching impacts it may have on that area."
Today the fire is out, the emergency is over, and people who evacuated are back home. Company officials say they'll do a thorough internal review and cooperate fully with outside investigators. Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.