Fire marshal to release first responders report on fertilizer blast

15 May 2014 23:32 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The Texas State Fire Marshal Office (SFMO) will release its official line-of-duty death report on Thursday evening, which is anticipated to outline the actions taken by the volunteer firefighters at the April 2013 fertilizer-fuelled explosion at West Fertilizer and provide guidance to others facing similar accidents.

On 17 April 2013, an ammonium nitrate (AN) explosion at the West Fertilizer distribution facility killed 15 and injured another 200 when an undetermined fire started and eventually ignited the stockpiles of the crop nutrient.

While the agency declined to discuss the findings of the report, which it previously said would examine the actions of emergency responders and their tragic deaths, a spokesperson said that Fire Marshal Chris Connealy will publicly release the report online this evening after his meeting with the families of those volunteer firefighters who were killed while attempting to bring the blaze under control.

Twelve people responding to the accident were killed at the facility when the ammonium nitrate exploded with a force so powerful that it registered a 2.1 magnitude on the US Geological Survey’s Richter scale.

The SFMO has not completed its investigation into the accident, and despite federal reviews and state inquiries, there still many questions left unanswered.

Last month, the SFMO said that scientific testing and interviews were still being conducted and that the agency was continuing to work with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) at its laboratory in Maryland in reviewing evidence and conducting tests.

Following the accident, the SFMO has conducted voluntary inspections of most of the Texas's 100 or so ammonium nitrate facilities. Connealy has said that about half the AN facilities were storing the chemical much in the same manner as was present at West Fertilizer.

By Mark Milam