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25 years later: A look back at the devastating San Jacinto River fire

Flooding in northeast Harris County caused several pipelines to rupture near the San Jacinto River, causing a massive fire.

HOUSTON — Today marks 25 years since the devastating San Jacinto River fire. 

Between October 18 and 20, 1994, a strong low-pressure system stalled over the Houston area producing more than 30 inches of rain. The San Jacinto River was pushed out of it banks and into neighborhoods along it.  

Days after the rain stopped and the flood waters began to recede, a 40-inch pipeline ruptured. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of gasoline poured into the river. 

To make matters worse, more than half a dozen other pipelines carrying natural gas, crude oil and diesel fuel, also broke open.   

Within hours of the ruptures, the spilled products ignited and, already caught up in the flood waters, become a burning mass moving downstream, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

The fires destroyed many homes along the river banks. It took nearly a week for the fire to burn out. 

The broken pipelines created a massive oil slick that stretched from north of I-10 to northern Galveston Bay. 

Sixty-nine people were sent to the hospital with respiratory problems caused by breathing the fumes. Luckily, no one was severely injured or killed. 


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