ATHENS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Hundreds of people were forced from their homes Thursday after fire ripped through a fertilizer storage facility near the downtown area, sending plumes of toxic smoke high into the sky.
The flames were first reported around 5:45 p.m. in the 300 block of West Larkin at East Texas AG Service. The company handles ammonium nitrate, and the fire immediately sparked concerns there could be an explosion similar to the deadly blast last year in West, Texas.
As fire crews arrived on scene, they ordered an evacuation, forcing people from homes and businesses within a five-block radius. City officials initially thought 1,000 people had been forced out, but lowered that number to 300 to 350.
Three shelters were set up for people who had no place to go.
There were no injuries and city officials were waiting on word from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as to when it would be safe for residents to return.
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