‘That’s A Lot Of Chemicals In The Air’: Neighbors Near Poly-America Fire In Grand Prairie Concerned About What They’re Breathing

GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) – A massive daylong fire at a Dallas-area plastics factory Wednesday that sent a dense column of toxic black smoke over North Texas before fire crews could tame it has been contained, fire officials said.

There were no reports of injuries from the midnight Tuesday blaze at the Poly-America complex in Grand Prairie, authorities said. No evacuations were ordered, but people with underlying health conditions were asked to avoid the area.

The 3-alarm fire has been burning at the Poly-America manufacturing plant in the 2000 block of West Marshall Drive, west of the Highway 161/George Bush Turnpike near the Lockheed Martin plant since just after 12:00 a.m.

Video from Chopper 11 shows the night being lit up in an orange hue, as plumes of black smoke shoot toward the sky.

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During a briefing Grand Prairie Assistant Fire Chief Bill Murphy said, “The call came in right at midnight. From what we understand right now — you can see behind me there are high-tension power lines, with the towers — evidently one of the power lines fell down. All of their storage there at Poly-America, for their rolled plastic, is underneath those towers so it ignited the plastic rolls. It just spread to all the inventory that they have back there.”

There is a lumberyard at the west end of the business and a number of train tracks in the area. Before sunrise Wednesday one rail-car had already exploded and there are still other cars on the tracks.

Murphy said the biggest worry is about the massive power lines in the area. “The power company is with us. It’s not a matter of if, its a matter of when these towers come down. They’ve been de-energized at this time, but we’re afraid that they’ll pull all the other towers down and it could hit an energized line as well.”

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If the power lines go down Murphy said there will be a lot of people without power, because “these are the main service lines that come in.” As it stands Oncor is rerouting power and crews with Poly-America are creating fire breaks on the property, moving material out of the way and trying to contain the fire to one area.

Fire officials say logistically it is very difficult to get the area where the fire is burning. Grand Prairie Fire also needs more of the foam used for fire suppression. They have reached out to airports in the area and say a Dallas Fort Worth International Airport crash fire truck is already at the scene.

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“This is going to be burning late into tomorrow,” Murphy said. “These are rolls of plastic sheeting, huge rolls, and they’re stacked sometimes eight-feet high. Plastic is hard to put out and it’s just gonna burn for, sometime ’til tomorrow.”

While the Grand Prairie Fire Department is busy battling the blaze at Poly-America, fire crews from Irving, Dallas and Cedar Hill are manning the stations in the city.

The fire is being fueled because the facility manufactures polyethylene and petroleum-based items like kitchen trash bags, drop cloths, plastic sheeting, and vapor barrier film.

According to the company website, Poly-America — which has man locations across the U.S. — is the largest company of its kind in the world. The company is headquartered in Grand Prairie

There have been no reports of injuries and no evacuations have been made. But officials are saying people with underlying medical conditions should take special care. Assistant Chief Murphy said, “Anybody with any breathing problems, any asthmatics, I mean it is the combustion from plastic so it’s not good to breathe.”

Individuals with compromised systems should avoid the area or self-evacuate if needed. Local and state environmental teams are the the scene, testing the air quality for any potential smoke impact.

Highway 161/President George Bush Turnpike was closed for hours, because the high-tension power lines in danger run over the roadway, but officials say the turnpike has been reopened.