The fire at the yard on U.S. 281 north of George West sent a plume of heavy black smoke skyward that could be seen from miles away and occupied firefighters for more than 12 hours.
Bobby Stewart, chief of the Three Rivers Volunteer Fire Department said that the Railroad Commission was investigating the cause of the fire.
Jimmy Hernandez, district manager for Key, said his company also has a team looking into what caused the fire.
The fire began in a group of six, 750-barrel Fiberglass tanks that hold saltwater, Hernandez said. Those tanks were part of a complex of steel tanks and a “gun barrel,” which is used to separate skim oil and hydrocarbon distillates from the salt water.
The fire began about 6:30 a.m., and the tanks were fully engulfed when the George West Volunteer Fire Department arrived. Stewart was in charge at the scene because the George West chief was out of town.
Stewart said that 12 to 15 firefighters were on the scene. Because of the intensity and nature of the fire, Stewart said the fire was allowed to burn itself out. He said firefighters left the scene for the last time around 8 p.m. Friday.
Firefighters were called back out to the scene several times Friday, as the tanks reignited.
No firefighters were injured, and Hernandez said there was only one Key employee at the yard when the fire started.
Hernandez said he has seen fire like Friday’s before when he worked in the Permian Basin. One was caused by a build-up of static electricity and the other by lightning.
The yard is in operation and the tank complex will be rebuilt.
Efforts to reach the RRC investigator Monday and Tuesday were unsuccessful.