West fertilizer tragedy teaches fire crews how to better respond

West fertilizer tragedy teaches fire crews how to better respond

TYLER (KYTX) - Predicting when or how a fertilizer plant will burn, is more of a guessing game than exact science. The state fire marshal's office didn't have much data before the West explosion. Since then they've been busy analyzing what happened.

CBS 19's Katiera Winfrey explains the office is using what it's learned to save lives.

Just up the road from Yvonne Walker's house, sits the fertilizer plant El Dorado chemical.

"I don't like it, cause it's harmful," Walker said.

Since the tragic West Texas fertilizer plant explosion, Walker's concern grows.

She cuts out news papers, clipping to remember the dangers.

"Another one can happen right up the street form me where I stay I don't know, all I can say it's just too dangerous and we stay right close to it."

More than 110 fertilizer plants are spread throughout Texas, bout six of them are in east Texas.

Since the West tragedy, fire crews statewide have been working to find the best way to respond in a similar situation, people who live just blocks away from the El Dorado fertilizer plant in Tyler said, those safety measures wouldn't be needed if this fertilizer plant wasn't on their block.

Walker said, "They can move that place as far as i'm concerned."

Smith County assistant fire marshal Oren Hale said the West explosion rattled nerves. As a result, concern grows.

"I think everybody across the country learned a lot from West."

Education about fertilizer fires has grown too.

Since West, the State Fire Marshal has inspected all 100 plus fertilizer facilities and suggested safety improvements, and also, educated fire crews on how to attack.

The most important step to attack: when dealing with tons of ammonia nitrate, it's best to let the chemical burn itself out.

"In a bin, spraying water, it's not gonna penetrate all the way down, it's gonna stop first few layers and add a lot of weight and compression of the anhydrous can cause it to explode."

But most importantly, if there is an fire, evacuate immediately.

The fertilizer plant industry is highly un-regulated, so although state fire marshals can inspect, there are no concrete guidelines all must follow, so safety suggestions are just that: suggestions.


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