BRYAN Lessons learned from last year's fertilizer plant fire and explosion in West prompted a State Fire Marshal's Office meeting in Bryan Wednesday night. The focus was ammonium nitrate which investigators say was improperly stored in a wood bin at the plant.
State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy is holding meetings across the state including this one in Bryan for first responders and local officials. He's hoping they'll learn how to appropriately handle situations with ammonium nitrate and how to prevent another West tragedy.
95 facilities in 67 counties in Texas store 10 thousand pounds or more of ammonium nitrate. 57 of those facilities use the chemical for agricultural use to make fertilizer. The other 38 use the substance for industrial use. Connealy say, "Our concern is we have a number of structures 45 of these 95 facilities on wood frame construction so there's fuel load to support a fire wherever it originates."
Officials want to require the installation of sprinkler systems in the facilities and the removal of ammonium nitrate from wooden storage bins. "Not rebuild the whole building just the storage bin, so that you put a roof and four walls, foundation and you have no other combustible stored with ammonium nitrate. You've pretty much resolved the issue".
Connealy says every first responder can also learn from the 2009 Eldorado fire in Bryan in which ammonium nitrate was stored. No one was hurt in that blaze. "The Bryan Fire department did an excellent job. They backed off, they didn't fight the fire, they let it burn, they evacuated the community, fortunately it didn't detonate, but you just never know."