Tests to determine cause of West Explosion delayed until 2014

Posted at 6:40 PM, Aug 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-26 19:40:35-04

The cause of the deadly West explosion remains under investigation and Monday the State Fire Marshal's Office met with the Homeland Security Committee in Austin to give an update on the investigation.

The State Fire Marshals Office says they're still months away from determining the cause. They told the committee, that the testing that may be able to pin point the cause of the fire which ultimately lead to the explosion won't begin until early next 2014.

State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy said the reason for the delay is because they need time to set up the extensive tests.

"We are working with the ATF and they're really the lead on this using federal resource to conduct this test. So it's a matter of them coordinating the resources to get this test done. So we're being told by them that they're looking in early 2014 to test the ammonium nitrate to basically replicate what happened in west," said Connealy.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner told lawmakers, that investigators still haven't been able to rule out several possibilities.

The explosion left behind a 93 foot crater and tons of evidence for investigators to sift through. Fire experts said the plants 120 volt electrical system, a golf cart with a possible faulty battery or arson could be to blame.

"We're down to these few items and part of the scientific testing is to do just that and try to hopefully at one point get it down to here is the definitive cause," said Connealy. "We may never know but our goal is to ultimately determine what caused the fire. But there's no guarantee."

Also at the meeting, state officials discussed the creation of a state website that would list all facilities that hold 10-thousand pounds of ammonium nitrate or more.

"We're trying to be sensitive to the balance of letting the community know what's there paired that with not divulging too much information where people of ill intent may try to use it for harm," said Connealy.

So far they have found 141 facilities all over the state that store, mix or distribute the dangerous chemical. Investigators have inspected more than 60 so far, and five have refused.

The inspections are voluntary because there is no state fire code. The inspections should be completed in October and the website is expected to be up and running in November.

West Mayor Tommy Muska says that "If what happened to them can protect another town then it's imperative they find out the cause of the explosion."