When firetrucks blew through the small town of West, Texas, on the evening of April 17, 2013, sirens screaming, naturally everybody was curious. People got in their cars and went to see the fire at the West fertilizer plant. For 10 minutes, they watched from cars and backyards as the fire grew ever bigger. A few moved as close as they could because they were filming on their smartphones. At no time did it occur to anybody that they might be in danger.
House lawmakers charged with investigating what went wrong during the fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, Texas heard from state officials this week that 46 “at-risk” chemical facilities similar to the one in West are still operating.
Texas Matters: An update on the Texas state fire marshal's online tool to locate ammonium nitrate facilities in the state like the one that exploded in the town of West. Are communities safer from this kind of a disaster? Also on this show: Texas libraries are set to lose federal funding, author Beverly Donofrio on her new memoir.
Ammonium nitrate storage in Texas after the West explosion
On April 17, the town of West, Texas, was leveled by an explosion at the local fertilizer plant.
Early this morning the Westside Preservation Alliance obtained an injunction against developers wanting to destroy an aging downtown TV studio.
After a city board declined to overturn a Historic and Design Review Commission decision, demolition began on the site of the former TV station, KWEX. Greystar Properties has stated their intention to build condominiums on the site.
Teachers and administrators at West ISD are nervously optimistic about this week’s start of a new school year four months after a massive fertilizer plant explosion leveled much of the town and left West ISD a hollow shell.
The new school may only be a series of portable buildings, but the faculty are proud to be back.
Dr. Jan Hungate is one of the chief administrators for West ISD and said sections of town are still unrecognizable, partially because of the blast, and partially because of new growth.
State officials are reporting back to a group of House lawmakers about what Texas is doing to keep communities similar to West, Texas safe from another fertilizer plant explosion.
State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy said his office has been conducting fire inspections of these types of facilities:
"We’ve done 62 inspections, thus far only five have said 'no,'" he said. "We still have about 140 to 153 facilities that we will finish up in October and then we will have this map created by November."
The governor’s office has announced the town of West will receive major disaster funding following an appeal of FEMA’s original decision to deny the town federal relief.
Early this summer, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced they would not be awarding the town of West major disaster relief following the massive fertilizer plant explosion that took out much of the area’s roads, schools and water system.
Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, who is the chairman of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, has asked that the State Marshall’s Office and Department of Public Safety work together to compile a website where people can identify dangerous chemical sites.
Col. Steve McCraw, who is with the Department of Public Safety, said currently there are 129 chemical plants in Texas that house dangerous chemicals, two just like the one in West.