The fire that caused the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion in 2013 has been ruled a criminal act by the Houston Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). The ATF is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the parties responsible for the fire.
After three years of extensive investigations the ATF released a statement reading in part: "After more than 400 interviews, a systematic fire-scene examination, the review of witness photos, videos and observations, as well as extensive scientific testing at the ATF Fire Research Lab in Beltsville, Maryland, the fire has been ruled 'incendiary,' or intentionally set. All viable accidental and natural fire scenarios were hypothesized, tested, and eliminated."
The explosion injured 300 people, destroyed over 500 homes and left a 93 foot wide, 12-foot deep crater at the blast site, and was a poignant tragedy for anyone living in the state at the time. The fertilizer plant blast occurred on April 22 at 7:50 PM, killing volunteer fire fighters who were attempting to put out a fire reported earlier at the facility. The blast also took the lives of several other first responders and West residents. The 15 deaths that resulted were an enormous blow to the tiny Texas town of 2,800 and made national news in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing that took place just days earlier.
The explosion was caused by ammonium nitrate that was being manufactured at the plant. Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer, but also can be used as a low explosive that will burn unless its oxygen source is cut off. Once oxygen is no longer available, any unburned ammonium nitrate will detonate. The West Fertilizer Plant, which has since gone out of business, had been cited in the past by multiple regulatory agencies including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Ammonium nitrate is the same explosive used as a component in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and was also the culprit in the 1947 Texas City disaster, which is on record as the worst industrial accident in U.S. history.
Anyone with pertinent information is being asked to contact Waco Crime Stoppers at 254-753-HELP (4357) or online at www.wacocrimestoppers.org.