Report: Firefighter Deaths at West Fertilizer Plant Could Have Been Prevented

The deaths of 10 volunteer firefighters who perished in the West fertilizer plant disaster in April 2013 were preventable, according to a long-awaited report released tonight by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The firefighters gave their lives to save their community and followed their training, the report finds, but didn’t have the resources or knowledge to fight a dangerous fire that involved a little-understood hazardous material.

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The Five-Year-Old-Boy Rebuilding West, Texas

One year ago on April 17, five-year-old Parker Pustejovsky lost his father in the fertilizer plant explosion that wrecked the small Texas town of West. Joey Pustejovsky was one of 10 first responders to die trying to put out the fire that precipitated the blast. It wasn’t long before young Parker declared he would rebuild the city park, stripped bare by the explosion—and he’d do it by selling hot dogs.

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State Agencies Meet Resistance in Policing Fertilizer Industry

In the third House committee hearing focusing on the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15, state agencies described resistance from some fertilizer companies in trying to inspect their facilities. The conflicting and overlapping roles of various governmental agencies with responsibility over fertilizer facilities was also underscored once again today.

Though investigations are ongoing, the State Fire Marshal’s Office is undertaking voluntary inspections of other facilities that handle ammonium nitrate – the chemical responsible for the explosion. The Fire Marshal’s Office has identified 153 facilities in the state that are believed to store ammonium nitrate. Since Texas doesn’t have a state fire code, the fire marshal lacks the authority to conduct inspections if the company resists. Fire Marshal Chris Connealy said most facilities have welcomed him and that his office has already inspected 62 sites. Five facilities refused to be inspected, though he couldn’t say why or which facilities they were.

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