Investigators aiming for May 10th for cause of West Fertilizer - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

Investigators aiming for May 10th for cause of fire at West Fertilizer Co.

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AUSTIN -

It's been 14 days since the West Fertilizer Plant Co. explosion. A state committee held a special meeting in Austin to hear from state agencies in the investigation.

The state fire marshal's office says it hopes to determine a cause of the fire by May 10th.

"There was a fire, we've shared that with you and then we had the explosion so we need to determine what caused the fire so we can see how that led to the explosion," Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said.

More than two dozen agencies are investigating the West Fertilizer Co. and $1,000,000 dollars in federal money has already spent on that fact-finding mission. The state fire marshal's office is digging through every part of the nearly 15 acre blast sight, but the cause of the explosion may never be known.

"We have had 300 interviews as of today and that has come off of over 160 leads that will work on our leads desk that has produced those almost 300 interviews," said Kistner.

Another agency to testify was the Department of Public Safety. There are more than 1,100 facilities in the state storing ammonium nitrate and the committee is concerned about something like this happening again.

"There's 1,105 firms with ammonium nitrate, 86 ammonium nitrate only companies, 96 ammonium nitrate only facilities,"said Steve McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The Department of State and Health Services testified about the amount of anhydrous ammonium stored.  They said it's not required for facilities to report storage capacity more than 10,000 lbs since state law doesn't consider it extremely dangerous.

"In Texas this requirement applies to manufacturing facilities, non-manufacturing facilities and to public employees. These reports are called two tier reports, and the requirement is laid on in the state and federal statue," said Dr. David Lakey, Director of State Health Services.

In a February report, the West Fertilizer Co. had 270 tons stored in their tanks, which is legal.

The purpose of Wednesday's hearing was to gather information on which agencies had responsibility for knowing what chemicals the West Fertilizer Company plant had in storage, and what could be done to prevent a similar tragedy from happening elsewhere.

One state official said cities and counties should bear that responsibility, and McLennan County should have a Local Emergency Planning Committee to track such things, but it did not. 

But county Emergency Management Director Frank Patterson told News Channel 25 Wednesday night that committee does exist and its meetings are open to the public.  Another county source confirmed the committee existed, as well.

A press conference has been called for 3 p.m. Thursday to address the issue and answer some of these questions floating around, according to Patterson.

 

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