WAXAHACHIE -- A fire that "outran the sprinklers" at a chemical plant near U.S. 287 and Interstate 35E on Monday forced the evacuation of nearby schools and neighborhoods and filled the air with dense, black smoke for much of the afternoon.
The fire at the Magnablend plant started about 11 a.m. after chemicals that were being mixed combusted, officials said. It was contained about 8 p.m.
The fire caused no air-quality problems, said Amy Hollywood, a Waxahachie spokeswoman.
Witnesses reported hearing repeated explosions from the plant, which is about 50 miles southeast of downtown Fort Worth.
The building where the fire started had sprinklers, "but the fire outran the sprinklers," Waxahachie Fire Chief David Hudgins said.
Firefighters from Waxahachie and surrounding cities, including DeSoto, Red Oak, Ennis and Midlothian, fought the blaze.
"We were the fifth company to arrive, and the flames were shooting 150 to 200 feet in the air," Red Oak firefighter Brandon Nichols said.
Early in the firefighting, a tank released a flood of some kind of flammable liquid that spread flames faster, Hudgins said.
About two hours after they began fighting the fire, Hudgins said he thought they were getting it under control.
"Then there was another release of liquid," he said.
The flames spread so fast that they ran under and engulfed an Ennis firetruck before it could be moved.
hose flames also threatened several nearby railcar tankers where chemicals were stored, Hudgins said.
Two Magnablend employees sustained minor injuries, WFAA/Channel 8 reported.
As dense, black smoke billowed above the area, neighborhoods were evacuated, including Wedgeworth Elementary School, Navarro College at Waxahachie and the Solon Place Apartments.
U.S. 287 and Solon Road were closed throughout the day but reopened about 4 p.m.
Officials said residents were let back into most of the evacuated areas late Monday afternoon.
Staff writers Mitch Mitchell, Domingo Ramirez Jr. and Jack Z. Smith contributed to this report.
Terry Evans, 817-390-7620