Emergency Responders Take Lessons From West Explosion Report - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Emergency Responders Take Lessons From West Explosion Report

Posted: Updated:
(KCEN) It's any city's worst nightmare: losing a dozen first responders in a horrific explosion.

And now a report from the state fire marshal found problems with how the initial fire at West's fertilizer plant was handled.

"You know, you can 'could be' yourself to death," said Phil Calvin after the report was published. He lost his firefighter son, Perry, in the explosion.

"I know as a volunteer fire department you do what you can," he said.

The state fire marshal's report lays out exactly what happened that night and what could have been done to prevent that loss of life.

"We fought it as a structure fire and not a chemical fire," said West Mayor Tommy Muska.

The report notes the department didn't approach it as a hazardous materials fire, "but rather initiated residential structural firefighting practices, with which they were familiar."

It also says, "There was no appearance of an appropriate firefighting strategy" for the situation.

The report is also packed with pictures and diagrams of where the chemicals were and where the fire department's trucks were set up.

It's 54 pages of detailed information about not just the plant itself, but about what led up to the explosion that night. It ends with specific recommendations for how to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

(Read the whole report here.)

The documents detail a timeline from April 17. They quotes multiple firefighters who knew the risks.

One of them says the ammonium nitrate "could never get hot enough for it to go off."

Later, a former firefighter tells the chief "he should get everyone out, that it's 'gonna blow.'"

"They had a year to do this report," Muska said. "Those men had a couple minutes."

The fire marshal lists 11 findings and recommendations in all.

Among them, make pre-incident plans for how to fight fires in dangerous places. And put an incident commander in charge to give the order to leave the scene.

But even without the expertise, those 12 men did what they thought was right. They fought the fire.

"I think it probably saved lives," Calvin said.

And they certainly died heroes.

The report doesn't lay blame or criticize the men for how they responded. It's simply meant to serve as a learning tool to keep fire crews safe.

"It's a very hard report to chastise a fellow fireman, you have to look at it and hopefully learn from it," Muska said.

The fire marshal also notes the plant didn't have a sprinkler system for the chemicals. It was built in 1962, and there wasn't a requirement for sprinklers.

One of the recommendations in the report reads, in part, "Measures that mandate or provide incentives to install automatic sprinklers...should be adopted as public policy."

"You try to learn from it," said Frank Patterson, emergency management coordinator for Waco-McLennan County.

And, indeed, his agency already has.

Last year they created an interactive map to let people know where chemicals are used.

It shows all tier two chemical facilities in the county. There are a lot of them, but that's because it also includes things like wells that use chlorine and school districts that use their own chemicals.

"That doesn't give you a list of chemicals or things of that nature," Patterson said, "but what it gives you is a contact phone number so that you can call those facilities" to ask about what they use and how they use it.

But other changes will have to come at the state level.

McLennan County can't write its own fire codes under current law because the population isn't big enough. And the codes in West didn't apply, since the building was just outside city limits.

"Hopefully somebody will learn from this so it doesn't happen to another department," Muska said.

Mayor Muska also wants to see the production and storage of ammonium nitrate get safer.

The report also notes the cause of the original fire has still not been determined.
  • Latest NewsMore>>

  • Russia Still Sends Military Gear to Rebels After MH17 Downing, U.S. Says

    Russia Still Sends Military Gear to Rebels After MH17 Downing, U.S. Says

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 9:44 PM EDT2014-07-23 01:44:03 GMT
    (NBC NEWS) -- Russia has continued to provide military equipment to Ukrainian separatists since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, with at least 20 vehicles — including tanks and armored personnel carriers — crossing the border on Tuesday, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials.The Russians stepped up their deliveries of vehicles and rockets launchers in the weeks prior to the airliner being shot down on Thursday, said one official, adding that the buildup occurred as the Uk...More >>
    (NBC NEWS) -- Russia has continued to provide military equipment to Ukrainian separatists since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, with at least 20 vehicles — including tanks and armored personnel carriers — crossing the border on Tuesday, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials.The Russians stepped up their deliveries of vehicles and rockets launchers in the weeks prior to the airliner being shot down on Thursday, said one official, adding that the buildup occurred as the Uk...More >>
  • UPDATE: 14-year-old Boy Drowns in Lake Waco

    UPDATE: 14-year-old Boy Drowns in Lake Waco

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 9:32 PM EDT2014-07-23 01:32:33 GMT
    UPDATE: 14-year-old Boy Drowns in Lake WacoMore >>
    UPDATE: 14-year-old Boy Drowns in Lake Waco
    More >>
  • Shortage Of Foster Parents Straining McLennan County

    Shortage Of Foster Parents Straining McLennan County

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 6:54 PM EDT2014-07-22 22:54:00 GMT
    (KCEN) --There are too many children and not enough foster homes in McLennan County.Just in the last year, the number of children being removed from their homes has skyrocketed. Leasa Minyard and her husband Rick have five foster kids under the age of six living in their home. Every day is challenge, but it's nothing compared to the lives most foster kids come from. "They don't ask to come into the situations,” Leasa said. “A baby does not ask to be born onto drugs, a child does not ask to b...More >>
    (KCEN) --There are too many children and not enough foster homes in McLennan County.Just in the last year, the number of children being removed from their homes has skyrocketed. Leasa Minyard and her husband Rick have five foster kids under the age of six living in their home. Every day is challenge, but it's nothing compared to the lives most foster kids come from. "They don't ask to come into the situations,” Leasa said. “A baby does not ask to be born onto drugs, a child does not ask to b...More >>
Click for Local Doppler Radar
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KCEN. All Rights Reserved. Users of this site agree to the Terms of Service, Privacy Notice/Your California Privacy Rights, and Ad Choices.