September 17, 2006
Reported By: Lee Peck
A fire breaks out at the Georgia Gulf refinery sending plumes of smoke into the air shortly after 8 p.m. It's still unclear at this time what exactly caused the fire at the Westlake refinery, but we do know that it did release hazardous chemicals into the air prompting a shelter in place for Westlake and the surrounding areas.
The plant produces vinyl chloride and we're told that is what was released by the fire. Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas and is not stable at high temperatures. Just so you know, if inhaled it produces symptoms similar to alcohol intoxication: including headache, dizziness, and loss of coordination and in severe cases unconsciousness and death by respiratory failure.
Residents living nearby tell 7 News the explosion was a little too close for comfort. "We heard a big boom! It shook the house," said Darlene Prater. "And then we looked out the window and we seen nothing but smoke going up in the air. And then the whistle went off, but we didn't hear no shelter in place or nobody talking or nothing like that."
The fire was under control at around 9 p.m. and the all clear was given just before ten. The Westlake Fire Department, State Police and Calcasieu Office of Emergency Preparedness were called to the scene. No word of any injuries, but EMS did respond as well.
OEP tells 7 News Georgia Gulf officials are continuing to monitor the air quality both on and off site. They say so far no harmful levels have been found.