The line-of-duty report from the Texas State Fire Marshal's
Office examined the deaths of a dozen first responders and
concluded the West volunteer fire department attacked a fire at
the plant "that was significantly beyond the extinguishment
stage" using small hose lines and a limited water supply.
The primary focus should have been evacuation not engaging the
fire, the agency said.
The April 17, 2013, incident at West Fertilizer Co., which had
operated for more than 50 years in a residential part of town,
killed three residents in addition to the firefighters and
caused damage estimated at $100 million.
The cause of the fire remains unknown but the source of the
explosion it sparked was ammonium nitrate stored in a wooden
container at the plant, investigators said. The ammonium nitrate
detonated with the force of approximately 15,000 to 20,000
pounds (6,800 to 9,000 kg) of TNT, according to federal
"The fire department did not approach this fire as a commercial
structure with hazardous materials, but rather initiated
residential structural firefighting practices, with which they
were familiar," the report said.
The fire marshal's office said it is not placing blame on the
first responders, but recommended that Texas require more
extensive training and planning by agencies at all levels in
response to incidents like the explosion.
(Editing by Edith Honan and Simon Cameron-Moore)
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