waxahachie fire 1 Fire Chief Recalls Dangers At Waxahachie Chemical Plant

Scene of Magnablend fire from Chopper 11 on October 3, 2011 (Credit: Ames Meyer)

WAXAHACHIE (CBSDFW.COM) – In the month since the Magnablend chemical plant in Waxahachie burned, fire chief David Hudgins has suffered sleepless nights. It’s not because of the damage that was done, but what almost happened.

It was spectacular as fires go. A dark column of smoke rising into the crystal blue sky. Explosions sending balls of orange flames into the air. Then the aerial images of flames pouring out of the building, engulfing a fire truck as fire fighters scampered away.

The story fire chief David Hudgins tells is jolting. From an outside assessment, Hudgins knew the fire inside the magnablend plant was bad. But neither he nor any of the firefighters knew of a danger that was hidden inside. Huge vats called totes were filled with mineral oil. Hudgins says they were no match for the fire.

But here’s what the hidden danger was. As thousands of gallons of water poured into the building, it mixed with the mineral oil. The oil caught fire and began speeding the length of the building toward crews that thought they were a safe distance away.

The Ennis Fire Department had set up a cherry picker bucket. Two men were high off the ground in the bucket, still unaware of the stream of flames gushing their way. That’s when a fire safety officer happened to look inside the building. He gave a life-saving warning from his command position a quarter mile away, Hudgins had no idea how close the men had come to death.

KRLD’s L. P. Phillips Reports: