Arson Suspected in Explosion at West, Texas Fertilizer

Authorities have determined that the fire that led to a deadly explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant three years ago was deliberately set.

After conducting 400 interviews and lab work on evidence, officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said someone started the fire on purpose

Authorities would not comment on whether they know of a suspect.

The explosion resulted in 15 fatalities, 260 injuries, and widespread community damage. Twelve of the 15 people who were killed were emergency responders.

The deadly fire and explosion occurred when about thirty tons of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate (FGAN) exploded after being heated by a fire at the storage and distribution facility.

The fertilizer company had been cited by federal regulators twice since 2006. A U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigation concluded the explosion was preventable, board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said on the one-year anniversary of the blast.

The CSB’s investigation found that several factors contributed to the severity of the explosion, including poor hazard awareness and the fact that nearby homes and business were built in close proximity to the West Fertilizer Company over the years prior to the accident.

The CSB found that the West Volunteer Fire Department was not required to perform pre-incident planning for an ammonium nitrate-related emergency, nor were the volunteer firefighters required to attend training on responding to fires involving hazardous chemicals. As a result, the CSB made several safety recommendations to various stakeholders, including the EPA, to better inform and train emergency responders on the hazards of FGAN and other hazardous chemicals.

The video explains that there was a stockpile of 40 to 60 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the facility in plywood bins on the night of the explosion, and although FGAN is stable under normal conditions, it can violently detonate when exposed to contaminants in a fire.