The Richmond Ave branch of La Tapatia at the corner of Woodhead St. is back in operation this week after the late summer toasting of its 1969 building, a few readers report. Up top is a shot of the July 22 response from the Houston Fire Department (whose Station 16 is located a convenient half-block away across Richmond at the corner with Dunlavy St.). That’s Fairmont Museum District looking on worriedly from the background; the poop-scrutinizing Richwood Place apartment complex’s older half would have had a clear view of the action from the western turret.
A Houston Chronicle attempt to get more info about the surprise chemical warehouse fire that turned Spring Branch Creek blood red earlier this year has been denied by the city,writes Matt Dempsey this week. The city has reportedly appealed to the state attorney general’s office to block the records request, as well as the paper’s broader request for “the name and address of every facility that files a hazardous material inventory form.”
The early May fire spread from a residence on Laverne St., igniting still-unquantified amounts of still-unnamed chemicals stored at the Custom Packaging & Filling warehouse behind it — a business that didn’t show up on the list of storage facilities the Chronicle was able to compile from local emergency planning groups, after the city and state blocked a previous request for similar info last year. The blaze left some firefighters with chemical burns and respiratory issues, and left stretches of nearby waterways decorated with festive biohazard signs and oil booms as the EPA did what they could about the mixture of pesticides and whatever else was killing the fish that drained from the site.
The holdup on Houston Ave. this morning, reports a reader stuck in the resulting traffic, is the aftermath of a minor fire at the Avenue Grill on the corner with Center St. The 1940s structure (which the restaurant’s operations purportedly moved into in 1962 after 12 years of business across the street) appears unharmed by the flames, which HPD tells Dale Lezon started in the building’s electric sign. The restaurant’s property went stealthily onto the market back in August of 2014 before it was found out the following March; county records don’t appear to show a change of hands since then.
Above is a rendered view of the Skyline on 24th townhomes at 815 and 819 W. 24th St., a couple of which burned down on Friday evening after a nearby dumpster fire reportedly spread. The Skyline site backs up directly to part of the Shady Acres location of C&D Scrap Metal Recyclers, which last month announced plans to close its Heights branch on May 12th; C&D owner and $2-bill enthusiast Dennis Laviage pointed out to KPRC that the fire was hot enough to melt the steel frames of the townhomes, and that the incident could have been way worse if some of the diesel stored on the C&D property had gotten involved in the action.
Builder La Casa International‘s in-progress pre-fire plans for the 2 lots included 8 units; a rendering of the complex’s driveway viewed from W. 24th shows stone pavers partitioned off by strips of fake grass:
The latest addition to the growing collection of signage at the Westview Dr. crossing of Spring Branch: a shiny new stick-in-your-yard-style biohazard warning sign, one of a number that popped up over the weekend along stretches of the creek that got the full vermillion treatment after last week’s chemical-fueled warehouse fire about a mile upstream. The newcomer joins the inveterate kiddo-crossing and school-zone signs tipping off drivers to the proximity of both Moritz Pech Family Park and Valley Oaks Elementary School, along with a Keep Spring Branch Clean & Green! anti-litter placard and a vintage No Dumping $200 Fine.
Other indicators of last week’s spill include the multi-colored booms still strung across the waterway (shown here looking south):
The ditches ran red in the Spring Branch area yesterday as the billowing 4-alarm fire near Laverne St. at Spring Branch Dr. triggered evacuations and shelter-in-place orders across the surrounding areas. The blaze reportedly started in a home-slash-auto-shop on Laverne and spread next door to the A-1 Custom Packaging warehouse (which transfers large quantities of various industrial liquids into smaller bottles for distribution). Some of those stored chemicals (including the bright red petroleum additive visible in the shot above) made their way into drainage ditches and culverts flowing into Spring Branch itself.
The red additive is non-water-soluble and has been getting pushed around by contract clean-up crews downstream to stop the spread. But contractors cannot, the city says, catch the pesticide that also made its way into the same drainage channels, as it dissolves in water. It’s still unclear how much of the 500 gallonsor so thought to have been stored at the site made it all the way into Spring Branch (which flows into Buffalo Bayou south of I-10), but some water quality test results are due back later today.
Update, May 6: The chemicals released by yesterday’s fire turned Spring Branch Creek blood red — photo and more info here.
The fire department posted a long-distance shot this morning of the A1 Custom Packaging warehouse, currently on fire near the intersection of Laverne St. and Spring Branch Dr. north of Longpoint Dr. The 4-alarm blaze (shown above from nearly 9 miles away looking out over 59 across Upper Kirby) is about a quarter mile from Spring Branch Elementary School, which KPRC reports is being evacuated. Roughly 500 students and teachers are being bussed to the Coleman Community Coliseum about 5 miles west-by-southwest, at 1050 Dairy Ashford Rd.
Noting the release of hazardous chemicals, the city’s emergency notification system recommends that anyone not evacuating the square formed by Blalock Rd., Bingle Rd., Westview Dr., and Hammerly Blvd. (shaded in red on the map above) should close their windows, turn off the AC and ventilation systems, and maybe have a go at sealing up cracks with duct tape and plastic sheeting.
Construction fencing is already up around the Cleburne Cafeteria, which burned down for the second time at 3606 Bissonnet St. earlier this week. The 75-year-old cafeteria business was bought by Nick and Pat Mickelis in 1952 at its original location on Cleburne and Fannin streets (which was recently occupied by DiverseWorks for a brief pre-MATCH stint, and currently houses the Zoya Tommy art gallery). The cafeteria moved to the Bissonnet spot in 1969; shortly after Nick Mickelis’s death in 1989, the building burned down for the first time.
News choppers milling around the LyondellBasell refinery at 12000 Lawndale St. this morning, just west of the 610 bridge over the Ship Channel, caught some shots of billowing black smoke and flames at the facility, which have since been put out. The company reports that heavy fuel oil and cleaning fluids burned after a Coker unit caught fire around 10AM for reasons yet unknown. The Houston fire department suggested until about 11:15 that folks please stay indoors and try not to let in any fumes in nextdoor Manchester, as well as south and west as far as Park Place Blvd. and Broadway St.; students at nearby Chavez High, Deady Middle School, and Rucker Elementary were also included in the shelter-in-place fun.
After burning for about 2 hours, the fire was put out just before noon — not nearly as speedily as yesterday’s fire at the ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown, which started around 4:40PM and was out by just after 5. That fire’s cause is also unknown; no injuries were reported in either incident.
Hughes Hangar is finished with the spot at 2811 Washington Ave., behind Affection clothing boutique at the corner with Epstein Ct. The gastropub-nightclub announced on social media on Saturday that “everything is priced at $4.00” and that the business would close for good at the end of the night. The club posted earlier in the week about an electrical fire that knocked out audio and internet systems; posts to the venue’s Twitter and Facebook accounts on Thursday assured customers that the space would be open for the weekend, though the bar would be running cash only until credit card infrastructure was repaired.
A Saturday-afternoon fire has temporarily flushed Montrose bar The Eagle from its roost at 611 Hyde Park Blvd — day-drinkers at the hotspot’s newish location reported smelling smoke and seeing lights flicker just before a manager ran downstairs to the first-floor bar area in the converted Depression Era-home to hustle patrons and staffers out. Owner Jay Allen told KTRK’s Deborah Wrigley that the permit had been approved for an already-installed sprinkler system in the building, but the City hadn’t hooked up the water yet. (No injuries were reported.)
Despite heavy smoke and fire damage to the second and third floors and water damage to the first, owner Jay Allen vows that the club will swoop back to its Montrose aerie (pictured above during the 2015 Pride season) as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the Eagle is screaming again (albeit only on Sundays) at its old bayouside digs downtown — “the dungeon” in the basement space at 709 Franklin — until repairs on the Hyde Park building are completed.
12 hours after the Courtyard by Marriott under construction at the corner of Park Row and Barker Cypress burst into flames, fire crews are still dumping water on the building, a reader reports. Here’s a post-conflagration view of the soaking going on at Texas Western Hospitality’s hotel project. The 135-room, 4-story hotel on a 5.2-acre site at 18010 Park Row Dr., next door to the West Campus of Texas Children’s Hospital, had been scheduled to open in October. No injuries have been reported.
When an unidentified arsonist wearing a face mask last Thursday spread what appears to be gasoline onto the railroad-track-facing back porch of the Cross Track Ice House at 200 Magnolia St. in Old Town Spring — just 2 miles southeast of the new ExxonMobil campus — footage of the scene and the fire’s initial moments from a security camera aimed at the porch somehow survived the blaze.
While much of the rest of Houston is recovering from — or still dealing with — high water after last night’s torrential rains, the long-vacant house at 116 Westheimer Rd. is showing off the scars it incurred from a disaster of a different sort. A fire raged through the structure Friday night.
The 1904 building is adjacent to the Jus’ Mac macaroni and cheese outlet in the 106 Westheimer strip center at the corner of Bagby St. A Swamplot reader sent in these photos showing the home as it appeared this morning:
The parking garage behind the Mix at Midtown retail center between Louisiana and Milam south of Elgin St. is still in operation after last week’s fire, but photos sent to Swamplot yesterday from the scene show that the steel 3-level structure behind 24 Hour Fitness, Holley’s Seafood Restaurant, Piola, and other businesses facing Milam St. isn’t operating at capacity. At least a dozen parking spaces on the middle and top level are blocked off, noted as unsafe because of fire damage to the structure: