May 13, 2016 — Federal investigators have concluded that the fertilizer plant in West, Texas was a “criminal act” caused by a fire that was deliberately set.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) has offered a $50,000 reward for help finding the person.
Some residents of West were surprised at the announcement, but it is believable. The fertilizer plant did not have security fencing or secure storage areas for the highly-explosive chemical.
Dan Keeney, a spokesman for Adair Grain, the firm that owns West Fertilizer Co., told reporters shortly after the blast:
“It was an operation that catered to the local agricultural community, whose habit was to be able to come in and help themselves after hours if they needed to.”
Approximately half of all fertilizer plants in Texas do not have secure fencing or storage areas, according to the Dallas Morning News.
West Fertilizer Co. is now out of business, but the company is still facing lawsuits and trials on behalf of people who were injured or died. The first group of plaintiffs reached settlements mid-trial. Later this year, a second group of lawsuits will go to trial.
Meanwhile, the town of West continues on a long road to recovery. Of the 160 homes that were destroyed, about half have been rebuilt. A new nursing home opened last summer. A combined middle school and high school is still under construction.
The explosion on April 17, 2013 started with a fire that burned for 20 minutes. Firefighters raced to extinguish the blaze, but it reached the plant’s massive stockpiles of ammonium nitrate and caused an explosion that injured 260 people and killed 15, including a dozen emergency responders.
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