On April 17, 2013, at 7:29 p.m., a fire was reported at the West Fertilizer facility in West, Texas. 22 minutes later, 60 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded, causing 15 deaths, injuring 300 people. Of the town’s 700 homes, about 350 were affected by the explosion, including 193 that were destroyed or severely damaged. The explosion produced ground motion equivalent to that of a magnitude 2.1 earthquake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The explosion left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep.
West Fertilizer Co, founded in 1962, is a retail facility that blends fertilizer and sells anhydrous ammonia and other chemical products to local farmers. It stored 270 tons of “extremely hazardous” ammonium nitrate, according to a report filed by the company with the state government.
Dallas television station WFAA reported from helicopters that a roughly three-block area of West appeared to have been flattened. “It’s a lot of devastation. I’ve never seen anything like this,” McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said. “It looks like a war zone with all the debris.”
President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration which authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to “identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.” During a press conference President Obama claimed, “Our thoughts, our prayers, are with the people of West, Texas, where so many people lost their lives, some lost their homes, many are injured, many are still missing. All in all, this has been a tough week.”
Chemical safety experts and local officials suspect this week’s blast was caused when ammonium nitrate was set ablaze. However, it should be noted that investigators have never determined how the fire was started, despite unsafe stockpiling. A week after the explosion, Homeland…