Hazardous materials released in Houston fire

Posted at 11:29 AM, May 05, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) — Nearly 200 firefighters battled a large blaze Thursday at a warehouse complex in Houston that officials said released hazardous materials into the air and forced the evacuation of hundreds of students from a nearby elementary school.

The four-alarm fire, which generated towering plumes of black smoke, began about 10 a.m. at a custom packing and filling company in west Houston.

The Houston Fire Department didn't immediately say which hazardous materials may have been released during the fire and explosions that rattled the industrial area. City officials issued an alert ordering people in nearby homes and businesses to stay inside, close all windows and shut off air conditioning. No injuries have been reported.

A spokesman for the fire department didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The name of the business and its owner has not been released.

Authorities have not said what they believe started the blaze, which TV station coverage showed was dying down by about 11:30 a.m. The plumes of heavy black smoke had dissipated and firefighters could be seen spraying white foam around the complex.

About 650 students and 80 staff members at a nearby elementary school were taken by bus to an indoor arena located about seven miles away.

"Right next to (the fire) was Spring Branch Elementary and we needed to get those kiddos out," said Chuck Brawner, police chief with the Spring Branch school district. Brawner said the elementary school was the only school in that area.