West Plant Explosion

West Plant Explosion
8:28 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Report: West Responders Weren't Prepared to Fight Fertilizer Plant Fire

Some of the aftermath of the West Fertilizer plant explosion. A new report says the blast was preventable.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

The Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office says the deaths of 12 people responding to last year’s explosion at the West Fertilizer plant could have been prevented.

The Fire Marshal’s report [PDF] released Thursday night says the first responders killed in the April 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West,Texas  were not prepared or equipped to deal with such a dangerous situation.

The report says that is not because the first responders failed to perform their duties as they had been trained, but due to a “systemic deficiency in the training and preparation” of the firefighters.

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West Plant Explosion
8:12 am
Wed April 23, 2014

Investigation: Disaster at West Fertilizer Plant Was 'Preventable'

A chemical trailer sits among the remains of the burning fertilizer plant in April 2013.
Reuters /Mike Stone /Landov

From StateImpact Texas:

A year after a deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas, a federal agency is releasing a report saying the disaster was preventable.

The Chemical Safety Board, which investigates chemical accidents and issues recommendations to ensure public safety, is presenting its preliminary findings tonight in the town of West, Texas, where the fire and subsequent explosion last year took 15 lives, injured hundreds, and destroyed homes and schools.

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West Plant Explosion
5:09 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Year Since West Fertilizer Plant Explosion is One 'Full of Questioning'

Loretta Volcik and her sister, Jeanette Holecek(L) sit at Volcik's home in West, Texas. Holocek and her husband, James, have lived with her sister since she lost her house in the explosion.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

It’s been one year since a fertilizer plant exploded in the town of West, Texas – just north of Waco.
15 people were killed and more than 150 were injured. Dozens of buildings were also destroyed in the blast.

A year later there are many signs of recovery and rebuilding in the small town.
But, for some, the rebuilding process has been difficult.

West resident Loretta Volcik says overall, the past year has been filled with one thing: Questioning.

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West Plant Explosion
1:18 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

What's Being Done To Prevent Another Fertilizer Plant Explosion?

Memorials near the site of the explosion in the town of West, Texas. (Terrence Henry/StateImpact Texas)

Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 2:12 pm

A year ago today, a deadly blast tore through the small community of West, Texas, killing 15 people and injuring hundreds. Homes and schools were destroyed.

The explosion at the West fertilizer plant was one of the worst industrial accidents in Texas history. So what’s being done to prevent it from happening again?

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Terrence Henry of KUT reports that the response has been a slow one.

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West Plant Explosion
12:44 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

What's Been Done to Prevent Another West?

Memorials near the site of the explosion in the town of West, Texas
Terrence Henry/StateImpact Texas

WBUR's "Here and Now" aired this story today. See more here.

From StateImpact Texas: 

WEST, TX - Trucks and bulldozers are still working here, the site of an explosion a year ago today. A deadly blast tore through this small community, killing fifteen and injuring hundreds. Homes and schools were destroyed, with the damage estimated to be over a hundred million dollars. 

There's a lone charred tree that still stands at the location of the blast, but other than that, the site is mostly empty. Crosses and memorials that read "West Strong" and "West is the Best" line the road.

The explosion at the West fertilizer plant was one of the worst industrial disasters in Texas history. So what's Texas doing to prevent it from happening again?

"Well, technically, nothing has been done," says state Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso), chair of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. Pickett says since West happened near the end of the legislative session, he didn't want to rush in any "knee-jerk" rules or regulations.

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Texas
6:43 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

West Gets $4.8 Million to Fix Water System

A scene from West after the explosion on April 17, 2013.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The Texas town of West is getting $4.85 million more to help recover from the fertilizer plant explosion that happened one year ago this week. Fifteen people were killed and hundreds injured in the blast on April 17, 2013. 

Governor Perry authorized the funding a day before a ceremony to mark the first anniversary of the disaster. West Mayor Tommy Muska didn't question the timing of the grant.

"It shows a lot of cooperation between local, state and federal that we can come together and secure these funds within one day of the anniversary and move forward," Muska told KUT. 

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Texas City Blast
3:35 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Before the West Explosion, There Was Texas City

Texas City as viewed from the air, April 16, 1947
Credit AP archival photo

April 17 marks exactly a year since one of the biggest industrial disasters in American history: the explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas that left 15 people dead, more than 150 injured, and large parts of the town flattened and destroyed.

Shocking as it was, the West explosion is not the worst industrial disaster in American history. That anniversary is today, April 16 – marking 67 years since the Gulf Coast town of Texas City was razed.  

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West Plant Explosion
4:41 am
Tue April 15, 2014

A 'Roller Coaster' Year For Texas Town Rocked By Blast

Firefighters search for survivors at a West, Texas, apartment building in April 2013. The breadth of destruction in West has raised questions about what, if any, new state laws should be passed to help prevent similar accidents in the future.
LM Otero AP

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 5:42 pm

When firetrucks blew through the small town of West, Texas, on the evening of April 17, 2013, sirens screaming, naturally everybody was curious. People got in their cars and went to see the fire at the West fertilizer plant. For 10 minutes, they watched from cars and backyards as the fire grew ever bigger. A few moved as close as they could because they were filming on their smartphones. At no time did it occur to anybody that they might be in danger.

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West Plant Explosion
11:30 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Investigation Into West, Texas Explosion Stopped Due to Shutdown

An apartment complex near the West Fertilizer Plant was destroyed in the April explosion.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The government shutdown has halted the federal investigation into the West Fertilizer Plant explosion. The explosion in April killed 15 people and injured hundreds of others.

“Some of the brightest scientists in the world are home today rather than doing their work to protect, and give us information so that we can have the right rules and regulations to protect our environment,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, said during a press conference yesterday. “The monitoring and enforcement is not being done as it should be done.” Cardin chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.

The ranks of furloughed workers includes most employees on the Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial accidents such as the West Fertilizer Plant explosion.

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West Plant Explosion
11:32 am
Tue September 3, 2013

VIDEO: The First Festival in West, Texas Since the Explosion

Credit Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Residents of the town of West, Texas came out over the weekend to enjoy their annual Labor Day festival – Westfest. With plenty of beer, sausage, polka music and rides, it’s a celebration of the town’s Czech heritage. 

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West Plant Explosion
9:32 am
Mon August 26, 2013

Back to School in West, Four Months After Plant Explosion

April's explosion caused the ceiling of the gym at West High School to collapse.

Students are heading back to school in West, Texas today. Many of them will be going back to temporary classrooms. That’s because April’s deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant destroyed most of the city’s public schools, along with hundreds of homes.

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West Plant Explosion
11:30 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Federal Disaster Declaration Approved for West, Texas

A home devestated by the blast in West, Texas, a month after the April blast. A federal disaster declaration should mean the release of rebuilding funds to West.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

It looks like a denial of federal aid to West, Texas will be overturned.

This morning, Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement saying West – the site of a devastating fertilizer plant explosion that claimed 15 lives and flattened entire city blocks – would benefit from a Major Disaster Declaration.

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West Plant Explosion
3:17 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Explosion Could Leave West, Texas Students in Portables For Years

A scene in West, Texas, following April’s fertilizer plant explosion. West school district officials say they'll have to house students in temporary structures as they repair or rebuild three of the four schools in the district.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Federal emergency officials have approved a $2.9 million grant for temporary structures to house students in schools devastated by the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion. 

The blast on April 17 killed 15 people and injured dozens others. 

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West plant explosion
6:46 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

After West Blast, U.S. Senator Calls for Safer Fertilizer Storage

A building destroyed by the fertilizer plant explosion in West
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

A U.S. Senator who oversees environmental regulation is urging state governors to increase safety standards for the storage of ammonium nitrate in the wake of the explosion in West.  Fifteen people were killed in April when a fertilizer plant exploded in the town just north of Waco.

California Democrat Barbara Boxer chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“If there’s even one more tragic death from improper storage of ammonium nitrate, we’ll have lost this opportunity. We have the information. The information is power. And the people who have power need to do something about this," Boxer said during a news conference Tuesday. 

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West Plant Explosion
9:22 am
Fri July 5, 2013

West ISD Demolishing Schools Damaged by Plant Explosion

West Middle School sustained the least damage to the ISD’s buildings following April’s fertilizer plant explosion. The school will house grades six through 12 when school begins this August.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

April’s fertilizer plant explosion left three of the four schools in the town of West, Texas destroyed or irreparably damaged, with the intermediate school completely flattened by the blast.

But, when school starts in August, the district says students won't have to be bused to other districts.

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Texas
7:34 am
Tue June 18, 2013

FEMA Deadline Today for West

Destruction in West after the April 17 explosion.
facebook.com/TexasAttorneyGeneral

Today is the deadline for people in West to apply for federal assistance.

It’s been nearly eight weeks since the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people and destroyed around 150 homes. So far, FEMA has registered 789 survivors and allocated $7.6 million to assist in the recovery.

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West Plant Explosion
5:04 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

FEMA Denies Rebuilding Aid to West, Texas (Update)

A decimated apartment complex in West, one month after the explosion.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is refusing to provide money to help rebuild the town of West after April’s deadly fertilizer plant explosion.

FEMA has approved more than $7 million in aid and loans to West residents impacted by the blast, but has denied assistance for things like crisis counseling, legal services, and unemployment assistance.  

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Texas
8:00 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Federal Agency Claims It Was Shut Out of West Investigation

Investigators in front of an apartment complex near the West Fertilizer Plant.
http://facebook.com/pages/Texas-State-Fire-Marshal

The head of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) says other government agencies are getting in the way of its investigation into the fertilizer plant explosion in West.

In a letter to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, CSB chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives blocked CSB investigators from accessing the site for a month, and "altered or removed almost all relevant physical evidence from the site."

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Education
12:27 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

Texas Students Solve Math Problems for West Recovery

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams at a check presentation ceremony. Students raised money for West, Texas disaster relief.
Texas Education Agency

Students across Texas helped raise $11,367 to the American Red Cross  West, Texas Relief Fund.

How'd they do it? By solving math problems. 

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West Plant Explosion
8:49 am
Fri May 17, 2013

Cause of Blast in West Fertilizer Plant Explosion Still Unknown

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

State and federal fire officials say it’s still unclear what caused a fire that led to the explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West. The investigation will remain open. Despite many unknowns, residents are trying to move forward.

On North Reagan Street, the only sounds you hear are screeching grackles and the occasional resident returning to what’s left of his or her home.  Nearly every house on this street is destroyed. Windows and doors are blown out. Roofs caved in. Broken furniture is scattered across lawns. There is a stench in the air that originates from a fly covered refrigerator. Someone has written "Do Not Open, Spoiled Meat" on the front.

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