Two years after ATF ruling fire at the West Fertilizer Plant intentional, still no arrests

Posted at 6:41 PM, May 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-11 00:05:37-04

On May 11, 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced the fire that resulted in an explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant on April 17, 2013, was intentionally set. 

ATF said the fire started in the feed seed building, which prompted an explosion, killing 15 people and injuring hundreds.

At a press conference in 2016, ATF said over $2 million had been spent on the investigation.

Central Texas News Now recently sat down with ATF Senior Special Agent and Public Information Officer Nicole Strong to talk about the investigation.

"This is still an open and active investigation. A lot of people are thinking because they aren’t seeing this in the news or seeing special agents on the streets of West that it’s closed down. But it hasn’t. We have agents actively working, still following up leads on this," Strong said.

As of early May 2018, no one has been arrested or charged with the crime.

"We can’t go so much into who we’re looking at or for what reasons. I will say I think we’re one phone call away from breaking this open," Strong said.

There is a $50,000 reward available for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for setting the fire.

Anyone with information should contact Waco Crime Stoppers at 254-753-4357.

"The reason the value is so high is the value we place on the loss that West experienced. You think about 15 lives lost, 12 of whom were first responders. We don't just investigate the big profile cases in large cities. The fact that this is small town Texas doesn't change a thing for us," Strong said.

Retired ATF Explosives Investigator Anthony May is familiar with how ATF runs investigations.

He said it's unusual to have national response teams on a call for longer than 10 days, but because of the magnitude of the case, it was a unique situation. Teams were on site for nearly two months. 

"First of all they had the victims they had to work through before they would even get to working the scene. They had to make the scene safe because of the  ammonia that was present on the facility and some of the other hazards that were there. And it was a very large scene," May said. 

"This is the largest call out our national response team has ever had in the history of ATF. And they were on the ground for 2 months," Strong said.

ATF has investigated over 500 tips since April 2013.

"The investigators need to take their time do a thorough job so that if they do bring someone for prosecution, we're going to get an conviction out of it," May said.

May said they could be missing one piece that would be enough to convict someone of the crime.

"We feel like we are one phone call, one tip, one step away from breaking this wide open," Strong said.

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