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Grain silo possible source of fire that led to West Fertilizer Co. explosion

23 April 2013

On April 23, The Times reported that the explosion at the fertiliser plant in West, near Waco, Texas, could have been triggered by a fire in a grain container on the site. Two witnesses said that the original fire that triggered the blast started in a grain silo and not, as was first believed, in one of the fertiliser tanks containing anhydrous ammonia. 

The blast in West killed at least 14, and a number of others are still missing
The blast in West killed at least 14, and a number of others are still missing

The newspaper quotes the friend of a son of one the plant’s owners, who went to investigate, saying the initial fire was in a silo, which was confirmed by another witness. Grain silos have been known to catch fire or explode when dust from the grain comes into contact with a static spark.

State and federal  investigators continued their work at the site of the blast that killed at least 14 people, including 10 volunteer firefighters.

State agencies involved in the investigation also include the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Federal agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The West Fertilizer Co. and the adjacent Adair Grain site were storing at least 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, an extremely combustible compound, as recently as last year, according to state records. Ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser, is also used in explosives for mining, road-building and other commercial uses.

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