Athens officials may have learned from West explosion - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

Athens officials may have learned from West explosion

A fire is still smoldering at an ammonium nitrate storage facility in east Texas. The fire is similar to the one in west that caused a devastating explosion but had completely different outcome. Unlike the similar fire in west last year, there was no explosion and no one was injured.

Ammonium nitrate is the same chemical that caused the violent explosion in west last year.

Athens investigators are now treating the plant as a possible crime scene.  Fire officials think it is suspicious there was a 30 minute gap between the last employee leaving the plant and the first reported call to authorities.

Some 70 tons of ammonium nitrate was delivered to the fertilizer plant warehouse before the giant fire broke out Thursday.

Officials may have learned some important lessons from what happened in west. The handling and storing of ammonium nitrate has been a point of emphasis for local lawmakers since the blast. In fact, the state fire marshal's office was just in Athens in April as part of their community forum discussing the dangers of ammonium nitrate.

At one point flames reached as high as 60 feet as the fire raged prompting first responders to evacuate a five block radius. Friday, many of those people returned to their homes but the immediate area around the site remains off limits leaving some 300-350 people stranded as the fire burns itself out. Forty-seven residents spent the night in shelters.

Since west, the state fire marshal's office has conducted voluntary inspections of facilities that house the chemical. They’ve also traveled across the state sharing their recommendations about how to handle ammonium nitrate. In addition, the agency has compiled a list of places that store large quantities of the substance.

West Mayor Tommy Muska earlier today says he was scared scary to hear about another fertilizer plant fire but says he’s happy they had a much different outcome.

Muska says if other can learn from what happened in west then it's a step in the right direction.

Click here to find a fertilizer plant near you.
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