What Really Happened At Axiall Lake Charles On Friday
According to Axiall Corporation, at approximately 1:40 PM Friday, a fire occurred in the vinyl chloride manufacturing area of Axiall Lake Charles (formerly PPG) chemicals complex. The facility is located immediately southeast of the I-10/I-210 interchange on the west side of Lake Charles near Sulphur. Large billows of smoke were immediately visible for miles around the area, as seen in the several photos below, and flames were visible from the Israel Lafluer bridge on I-210 over Prien Lake as shown in this video, courtesy Devin Guillory.
The fire was extinguished at approximately 2:38 PM, meaning it lasted for about an hour. There were no injuries to plant personnel reported, however, according to Sgt. James Anderson, of the Louisiana State Police Troop D, 12 motorists who drove through the smoke on I-10 were taken to area hospitals for precautionary measures.
Authorities issued a shelter in place at approximately 2:30 PM for Sulphur, Westlake, Moss Bluff, and Lake Charles two miles north of I-10. This was the first shelter in place issued for the Lake Charles area in about a decade. Authorities also closed I-10 east and westbound in the Westlake vicinity at that time. The shelter in place was issued for fears that hydrochloric acid had leaked into the air, though later, the Department of Environmental Quality determined that there was no threat to the public by chemicals in the air. Schools in Sulphur in Westlake were on lockdown, and parents were urged to not attempt to come to pick up their children until after the shelter in place had been lifted.
At approximately 2:52 PM, authorities lifted the shelter in place order, and they reopened I-10 at approximately 2:55 PM. Axiall’s investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing, and they are coordinating with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and other authorities. As more information becomes available, it will be posted on this site.