When a massive fire broke out at the Intercontinental Terminals Company in 2019, a thick plume of smoke blanketed parts of east Harris County for several days. Hospital admissions for asthma increased by about 65% compared to the same time in 2018, according to county data.

A Deer Park 911 dispatcher named Brandy fielded calls as residents’ phones began to buzz and beep with shelter-in-place notifications on the first morning of the fire.

“All we can tell you is that the city manager’s office and the emergency management office have requested a shelter in place,” she told one caller. “Yeah, stay home. They request you not to be out and about. Make sure your doors and windows are shut, and turn your air conditioners off.”

The fire burned for days and affected neighboring cities.

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Photo Credit: Florian Martin/Houston Public Media