The U.S. Chemical Safety Board was deploying a large investigation team to West. An ATF national response team that investigates all large fires and explosions was also expected, bringing fire investigators, certified explosives specialists, chemists, canines and forensic specialists. American Red Cross crews also headed to the scene to help evacuated residents.
There were no immediate details on the number of people who work at the plant, which was cited by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in 2006 for failing to obtain or to qualify for a permit. The agency acted after receiving a complaint in June of that year of a strong ammonia smell.
The Chemical Safety Board has not investigated a fertilizer plant explosion before, but Managing Director Daniel Horowitz said "fertilizers have been involved in some of the most severe accidents of the past century."
He noted the 2001 explosion at a chemical and fertilizer plant that killed 31 people and injured more than 2,000 in Toulouse, France. The blast occurred in a hangar containing 300 tons of ammonium nitrate and came 10 days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., raising fears at the time it was linked. A 2006 report blamed the blast on negligence.
Horowitz also mentioned the 1947 Texas City disaster, when a fire in a cargo ship holding more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded, killing more than 500 people.