An investigation by the Texas Fire Marshal found that the West, Texas, fire department as a whole lacked the planning, command structure, training and resources to fight the fire at the West Fertilizer Co. prior to the explosion that killed 15, most of them firefighter and first responders.
An article written by J.B. Smith posted on the WacoTribume.com website, provides background and results of the Fire Marshal’s investigation into the 2013 fire and explosion.
A major contention is that the firefighters “did not have adequate knowledge of the risks involved in fighting a fire involving explosive ammonium nitrate,” Smith wrote.
The fire marshal, Chris Connealy, met with families of the decreased firefighters privately to issue the findings. He reportedly praised the heroism of the 10 firefighters who died, but he also noted the need to explain the situation that occurred so that other Texas fire departments will make improvements in responding to industrial fires.
“Hopefully, other departments will learn something from this report,” West Major Tommy Muska is quoted as saying following the meeting. “I applaud the state fire marshal for doing it. He got very emotional and passionate about it and said he wanted to make sure that these people didn’t die in vain.”
A list of failures in supervisory roles and pre-incident planning was highlighted in the state report. One main conclusion was that by the time firefighters arrived the storage building was too far engulfed in flames to have risked firefighters being so close to the structure, especially if they had known about the explosive potential of contents.
The full WacoTribune.com article can be read by clicking here.