MARTIN COUNTY, TX (KWES) - Lightning struck a saltwater disposal facility Thursday afternoon at County Road 2901 and Highway 176, sparking an explosive, reigniting fire that required units from Martin County, Stanton and Lenorah to control, officials said.
No injuries were reported.
"It was just mass chaos," said Morgan Cox, Assistant Fire Chief with the Lenorah Volunteer Fire Department.
He said he was eating lunch at a cafe down the road when the first explosion shook the site around 1 p.m.
"When it exploded, we felt the building shake two miles down the road," Cox told NewsWest 9. "Our pagers were going off... [and] we responded immediately. When we got here, everything was totally engulfed."
Facility owners were not available for comment.
"They told us they were grateful everyone made it out alive," said Cox.
A total of 12 firefighters rushed to the scene, officials said.
Martin County supplied five trucks, while Lenorah sent three and Stanton responded with two, according to Cox.
NewsWest 9 viewers reported seeing plumes of black smoke from more than 10 miles away and described the scene of the initial explosion as a "mushroom of fire and smoke, like a huge bomb had hit."
A stretch of Highway 176 was blocked for approximately two hours.
"The smoke was covering the highway [and] you couldn't see," said Cox. "All the lids off the tanks [at the saltwater disposal site] had exploded... They were blown clear across the field."
Firefighters had flames extinguished by the time NewsWest 9 crews arrived around 4 p.m. Smoke was barely visible by 5 p.m.
However, a second, smaller explosion shook the site with no warning around 5:15 p.m., four hours after lightning first sparked the fire.
"You just never know," said Cox. "Our men were right here and took care of it immediately."
Crews controlled the flames within minutes, later declared the scene inactive and left around 6 p.m.