Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

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Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Thesh » Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:55 am UTC

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/18/us/texas-explosion/

(CNN) -- A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small Texas town of West left at least two people dead, leveled several homes and prompted a widescale evacuation in the community of 2,600 people.
"It was a like a nuclear bomb went off," Mayor Tommy Muska said. "Big old mushroom cloud. There are a lot of people that got hurt. There are a lot of people that will not be here tomorrow."
Fire officials fear that the number of casualties could rise as high as 60 to 70 dead, said Dr. George Smith, the emergency management system director of the city.
"That's a really rough number, I'm getting that figure from firefighters, we don't know yet," he said.
"We have two EMS personnel that are dead for sure, and there may be three firefighters that are dead."


Video of the explosion:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNJ5V-X5QZ8
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Tryst » Thu Apr 18, 2013 9:03 am UTC

xkcd What If #40 - "What's the worst thing that can happen if you misuse a pressure cooker...?" - Boston Bombings involving pressure cookers, 6 days later.
xkcd What If #41 - "Go West" - Fertilizer factory explosion in the Texan town of West, 2 days later.

A tragic coincidence.

My thoughts go out to all of those affected by this.

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Sizik » Thu Apr 18, 2013 1:50 pm UTC

Everything's bigger in Texas.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Adam H » Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:00 pm UTC

The town is basically just gone. It's insane.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby soratidus999 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:51 pm UTC

i dont mean to nitpick, but a fertilizer plant exploded and only 60-70 casualties

i mean an explosion is a bit more dangerous than molassas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Molasses_Disaster and it killed 20 people...

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:56 pm UTC

And a gas leak killed 15,000 in Bhopal.

Your point?

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Xeio » Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:57 pm UTC

They had time to evacuate a lot of the at-risk area as well in this case...

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby soratidus999 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:02 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:And a gas leak killed 15,000 in Bhopal.

Your point?


point taken, i suppose i was just amazed at how violent it appeared to be,

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Thesh » Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:05 pm UTC

The plant was on fire for some time before the explosion, so people at least had time to evacuate the plant.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:34 pm UTC

Is there any indication as to whether or not this was accidental/intentional?

Being so close to the Boston bombing there's sure to be speculation...

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Роберт » Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:42 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Is there any indication as to whether or not this was accidental/intentional?

Being so close to the Boston bombing there's sure to be speculation...

Well, the explosion was long after a fire had been going for a while, giving time for people in the area (who were aware they were living near a dangerous plant) to respond.

It seems unlikely that the explosion was intentionally, and yet gave that much warning.

Also, they officially said there's no indication of foul play.

Yes, it was close to another terrorist attack (Boston Bombs) and similar time frame to the ricin-laced letters... but it seems unlikely.

Scary though.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby τππ » Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:49 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Is there any indication as to whether or not this was accidental/intentional?

Being so close to the Boston bombing there's sure to be speculation...

Well, the explosion was long after a fire had been going for a while, giving time for people in the area (who were aware they were living near a dangerous plant) to respond.

It seems unlikely that the explosion was intentionally, and yet gave that much warning.

Also, they officially said there's no indication of foul play.

Yes, it was close to another terrorist attack (Boston Bombs) and similar time frame to the ricin-laced letters... but it seems unlikely.

Scary though.

Not to mention, accidents involving fertilizer plants aren't exactly unheard of (look for the Wikipedia page "Ammonium nitrate disasters").

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:20 am UTC

I think all three are almost certainly unrelated...but damn, it does seem like a run of bad luck. Seriously, world, stop bein' crazy.

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby JetstreamGW » Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:16 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Is there any indication as to whether or not this was accidental/intentional?

Being so close to the Boston bombing there's sure to be speculation...


It's a fertilizer plant in a tiny, tiny town. It caught fire and the ammonium nitrate exploded. Ammonium nitrate will do that.

It's tragic, but not suspicious. Fertilizer plants have exploded in the past and will do so in the future. Fertilizer can be dangerous if things go balls up.

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Garm » Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:57 am UTC

It's not suspicious, it's pathetic. Fire was listed as "not a potential threat" or some such nonsense. Basically, they didn't take any precaution to protect all this explosive material in case of a fire. Is it any surprise it all blew up? About a dozen first responders are dead, are we going to see any sort of penalties levied on the company for their negligence? My guess is no but I hope to be proven wrong.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Darryl » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:02 am UTC

Роберт wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Is there any indication as to whether or not this was accidental/intentional?

Being so close to the Boston bombing there's sure to be speculation...

Well, the explosion was long after a fire had been going for a while, giving time for people in the area (who were aware they were living near a dangerous plant) to respond.

It seems unlikely that the explosion was intentionally, and yet gave that much warning.

Also, they officially said there's no indication of foul play.

Yes, it was close to another terrorist attack (Boston Bombs) and similar time frame to the ricin-laced letters... but it seems unlikely.

Scary though.

The plant had not been inspected by OSHA in 27 years. I'm pretty sure it's accidental due to negligent maintenance.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:24 am UTC

OSHA is pretty frigging useless. Once, I was working in a call center while construction was literally happening around me. Power tools right nearby, I couldn't wear hearing protection because I had to wear the GD headset, and dust was literally pouring down from the ceiling while they worked. This wasn't temporary, this was ongoing for months(I have no idea why it took so long). So, I called OSHA to see what could be done. They asked "is the dust so thick that you physically cannot see". Well, no, it wasn't. Then, they couldn't do anything, they said.

Mostly, they exist to give out fines for technical violations, but entirely miss the big picture of "is this a reasonable level of safety for this job".

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby leady » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:27 pm UTC

We have the opposite issue here, we have box lifting courses, H&S forms before any activity etc to stay technically compliant

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Aikanaro » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:33 pm UTC

I once had a construction job where, at the time, we were working in a metal building with pretty much no ventilation, when it was getting to record high temperatures in the summer, like 100 plus. We were REQUIRED by OSHA, however, to wear long pants and hard hats at all times. Someone remind me where most of your body heat escapes from? Yeah.... I'm not saying that hard hats don't reduce risk, but you kinda gotta weigh THAT risk against the one presented by overheating.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:54 pm UTC

Aikanaro wrote:Someone remind me where most of your body heat escapes from?


You are about to be buck naked in a Canadian winter. You can take one of two packages. The first package contains boots, snow pants, gloves, and a hood less coat. The second package contains a hat. Which do you choose?

The head doesn't release significantly more heat than any other part of the body.

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby bluebambue » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:02 pm UTC

first result from google: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/ ... nbehaviour

The study where the "fact" that we lose 90% of heat through the head came from a not well designed study where they stuck people out in the cold with most of the body covered except for the head. In that case, the head loses 90%, but it wouldn't if everything is uncovered.

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Diadem » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:24 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Aikanaro wrote:Someone remind me where most of your body heat escapes from?


You are about to be buck naked in a Canadian winter. You can take one of two packages. The first package contains boots, snow pants, gloves, and a hood less coat. The second package contains a hat. Which do you choose?

The head doesn't release significantly more heat than any other part of the body.

Wait, wait, we're missing some vital information here. What colour are the boots?
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Xeio » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:29 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:You are about to be buck naked in a Canadian winter. You can take one of two packages. The first package contains boots, snow pants, gloves, and a hood less coat. The second package contains a hat. Which do you choose?

The head doesn't release significantly more heat than any other part of the body.
Wait, wait, we're missing some vital information here. What colour are the boots?
Also, what kind of hat?

I mean, if I'm probably gonna die I'd rather die in style in something like a top hat. Plus then people will forever wonder what the fuck this frozen dead guy was doing out in the frozen wilderness in nothing but a top hat.

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Diadem » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:52 pm UTC

Actually, the original question specifies just that you can choose between two packages. It doesn't say you are allowed to open them, and it does explicitly say you are going out buck naked, so even if you were allowed to open them you certainly wouldn't be allowed to wear their contents.

So choose the package with the hat! It's most likely the least heavy of the two.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby EMTP » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:01 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Aikanaro wrote:Someone remind me where most of your body heat escapes from?


You are about to be buck naked in a Canadian winter. You can take one of two packages. The first package contains boots, snow pants, gloves, and a hood less coat. The second package contains a hat. Which do you choose?

The head doesn't release significantly more heat than any other part of the body.


I'm going to split the baby here and point out that while the 90% figure, at a minimum, assumes clothes and no hat, and is therefore misleading, that it is also likely inaccurate to claim that the "head doesn't release significantly more heat than any other part of the body." In point of fact, the face and scalp are highly vascular and consequently have a lot of warm blood moving through them, making them lose more heat, proportionally.

Also, in an unrelated point, we need to have a serious discussion about America's highly aggressive style of firefighting which results in much higher causalities than more cautious "surround and drown" tactics favored elsewhere: about a hundred firefighters a year die in the US, compared to 122 in the UK over thirty years (1). Firefighter deaths per million inhabitants are three times higher in the US than in Italy, and ten times higher than Spain's (2).

I bring this up, as a former volunteer firefighter and wildland firefighter still active in EMS, because if there was time to evacuate the town, there was time to evacuate the firefighters. This shouldn't have been a hard one. It's a freaking fertilizer factory. That's a case for applying the emergency responder's Staging Rule of Thumb: If I hold up my thumb and it doesn't block the view of the problem completely, I need to move further back.

I respect absolutely the sacrifice of these volunteers, but we should look at the approach to fire that kept them in harm's way.


1. http://www.firetactics.com/fbu_fatalities_report.pdf
2. http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/ ... /v12i8.pdf
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Роберт » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:14 pm UTC

EMTP wrote:about a hundred firefighters a year die in the US, compared to 122 in the UK over thirty years

Is it just me, or is this a really strange comparison that tells us nothing?
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby sardia » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:15 pm UTC

He forgot to convert to per capita or per 100,000 people. Potentially, we could still have significantly more firefighter deaths then average.

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Роберт » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:28 pm UTC

sardia wrote:He forgot to convert to per capita or per 100,000 people. Potentially, we could still have significantly more firefighter deaths then average.

...the 122 number he gave was raw. http://www.firetactics.com/fbu_fatalities_report.pdf
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Thesh » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:30 pm UTC

You have to compare fatalities per incident for similar incidents if you want it to be meaningful. The US gets very large wildfires, and I don't think that they are nearly as large or common in the UK. For example, in Summer 2008 in California, we had fires that covered 4,686km2 and in 2011 in Texas there were wildfires that covered a combined total of 15,595 km2 (which is about 6% of the area of the entire UK) and killed two firefighters.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby EMTP » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:36 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:
EMTP wrote:about a hundred firefighters a year die in the US, compared to 122 in the UK over thirty years

Is it just me, or is this a really strange comparison that tells us nothing?


Sorry, I assume most people know the UK has about one-fifth the population of the US.

See the second link for a list of countries' deaths per capita.

We could do quite a bit better.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Thesh » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:47 pm UTC

You also have to look at the differences in the reports:
http://apps.usfa.fema.gov/firefighter-f ... arEnd=2012

37% of on-duty firefighter fatalities in the US are listed as "Not Incident-Related" with the number one cause of death being heart attack - are those reported in the UK statistics?

Also, is per-population really a good measure? The US had over 1.1 million firefighters in 2011, the UK had 54,000 combined reserve and full time firefighters in 2010. That gives the US around 20 firefighters per 1 firefighter in the UK.

http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?cate ... emID=55953
http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/fe ... irefighter
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby TheKrikkitWars » Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:22 am UTC

leady wrote:We have the opposite issue here, we have box lifting courses, H&S forms before any activity etc to stay technically compliant

That's often more down to insurers than to the HSE themselves though, whilst they do have compliance and auditing requirements, those are often far less than the requirements of the liability insurer who want's to minimize their exposure to risk. Depending on the environment, depends on how OTT people get I've found that heavy industry takes a much more common-sense approach to Health and Safety than commercial and service environments... They're more willing to invoke the "as far as is practical" clause of the H&S regs.

Certainly working with very large manual and CNC machinery and lifting unusual heavy and awkward objects (pre-glazed shopfront in 480kg sections, between 7 people; Erecting 5m long I-beams using manual rigging techniques), a briefing and sign-off period makes things a little safer than assuming specific competence by derivation from a general competence (every machine is different, some radically so; so it's not enough just to know a class of machines, but how exactly the one in front of you works)... assuming you already know what you're doing it should only take 10-15 minutes to go through the important information, demonstrate competency and get signed off, longer if you're expected to carry out maintenance or change tooling.

Aikanaro wrote:I once had a construction job where, at the time, we were working in a metal building with pretty much no ventilation, when it was getting to record high temperatures in the summer, like 100 plus. We were REQUIRED by OSHA, however, to wear long pants and hard hats at all times. Someone remind me where most of your body heat escapes from? Yeah.... I'm not saying that hard hats don't reduce risk, but you kinda gotta weigh THAT risk against the one presented by overheating.

That should be covered by a separate Thermal Risk Assessment or Environmental Health Assessment; People working in areas above 30 degrees Celsius/Centigrade should be getting much more regular short breaks from exposure to the temperature in an appropriately cool and/or well ventilated place than they would otherwise be entitled too; this is to allow people to maintain cool and appropriately hydrated, though the breaks don't have to be a release from working entirely just from the hot environment, unlike the mandated 30mins in every 8hrs breaks under separate employment law.

I spent 3 days working inside a huge metal pressure treatment tank in the blazing sun, wearing a full-face respirator, boots, gloves and coveralls; cleaning the whole thing of VOC-heavy residues, ready for it to be cut up with an oxy-propane torch; I wasn't about to grumble about the respirator, even if it was like a small sauna for my face.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:42 am UTC

EMTP wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:
Aikanaro wrote:Someone remind me where most of your body heat escapes from?


You are about to be buck naked in a Canadian winter. You can take one of two packages. The first package contains boots, snow pants, gloves, and a hood less coat. The second package contains a hat. Which do you choose?

The head doesn't release significantly more heat than any other part of the body.


I'm going to split the baby here and point out that while the 90% figure, at a minimum, assumes clothes and no hat, and is therefore misleading, that it is also likely inaccurate to claim that the "head doesn't release significantly more heat than any other part of the body." In point of fact, the face and scalp are highly vascular and consequently have a lot of warm blood moving through them, making them lose more heat, proportionally.


I'm gonna go one step further. People aren't typically naked in cold weather environments. The comparison between "normal clothes and a coat" and "normal clothes and a hat" are probably much more realistic and practically useful comparisons. In the original context, wearing a hat in high heat conditions is indeed going to have at least some additional heating, which will make you less safe in certain respects. If it makes you less safe overall is going to be a tradeoff with the risks the hat protects you against...but it's not unreasonable to imagine a scenario in which wearing a hard hat actually makes you less safe, even if those scenarios aren't the standard.

Also, in an unrelated point, we need to have a serious discussion about America's highly aggressive style of firefighting which results in much higher causalities than more cautious "surround and drown" tactics favored elsewhere: about a hundred firefighters a year die in the US, compared to 122 in the UK over thirty years (1). Firefighter deaths per million inhabitants are three times higher in the US than in Italy, and ten times higher than Spain's (2).

I bring this up, as a former volunteer firefighter and wildland firefighter still active in EMS, because if there was time to evacuate the town, there was time to evacuate the firefighters. This shouldn't have been a hard one. It's a freaking fertilizer factory. That's a case for applying the emergency responder's Staging Rule of Thumb: If I hold up my thumb and it doesn't block the view of the problem completely, I need to move further back.


Not necessarily. It's possible that the fire fighting efforts delayed the explosion. Also, most likely the firefighters were closer than many...probably most of the townspeople. Now, maybe some of them could indeed have been saved. However, it's hard to know the exact scenario without being there. It's not improbable that some measure of risk was accepted in hope of averting the explosion altogether, and if successful, that risk would have been deemed completely worthwhile. Heroic, even.

Looking at such events in retrospect allows us to know the outcome, which can definitely bias our perception of if a risk was worthwhile.

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby EMTP » Tue Apr 23, 2013 6:23 pm UTC

It's possible that the fire fighting efforts delayed the explosion.


Having studied many fires like this in fire academy, ICS courses, and hazmat courses, it's unlikely.

Looking at such events in retrospect allows us to know the outcome, which can definitely bias our perception of if a risk was worthwhile.


That's why it's important to look at the statistics and ask if our emphasis on interior attack and property preservation is why we have a high per capita firefighter fatality rate, and whether it is worth it.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:20 pm UTC

EMTP wrote:
Looking at such events in retrospect allows us to know the outcome, which can definitely bias our perception of if a risk was worthwhile.


That's why it's important to look at the statistics and ask if our emphasis on interior attack and property preservation is why we have a high per capita firefighter fatality rate, and whether it is worth it.


Looking at the additional factors brought up by others, that if seems very questionable and unsupported. It may well be that additional improvements in firefighting are possible, but the stats given don't seem to be sufficient to prove that case.

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby EMTP » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:44 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Looking at the additional factors brought up by others, that if seems very questionable and unsupported. It may well be that additional improvements in firefighting are possible, but the stats given don't seem to be sufficient to prove that case.


I've recently become very familiar with your talents at rationalizing away facts and numbers you don't like, without providing a convincing argument of your own. As a result of that experience, I have very little interest in what you think is "questionable."

A vague appeal to "additional factors" notwithstanding, the facts are as I have outlined them. A high death rate, associated with an aggressive culture in firefighting, which cost the lives of a dozen first responders in this case, without any evidence of benefit to anyone.

Link to the timeline: http://www.elpasotimes.com/newupdated/c ... ine-events

Firefighters responded a mere 21 minutes prior to the lethal explosion, leaving them charitably a maximum of five minutes at the scene before the explosion, given typical volunteer response times (http://www.fireengineering.com/articles ... times.html). This means that if the responders barely, if at all, put water to fire before they all died.

I suggest examining the assumptions and tactics that put them in that position.
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:17 am UTC

http://www.politicususa.com/deep-heart- ... osion.html

According to authorities, as late as last year (and I suspect possibly this year) the plant housed an incomprehensibly high quantity of ammonium nitrate as well; some 540,000 pounds of the stuff. This exceeded the quantity of Tim McVeigh’s Oklahoma City ANFO (Fuel oil) fertilizer bomb by a factor of 100. To put that amount in further perspective, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is supposed to be notified when plants hold a minimum of 400 lbs POUNDS of ammonium nitrate. The West Co. housed 270 TONS! That’s 1,350 times the red flag amount.

The company only filed its total tonnage with the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS). In turn that agency and Adair both said “screw the feds” and didn’t pass along that information to Homeland Security as, at least, Adair was legally required to do. Wouldn’t you think TDSHS, whether they were legally obligated to report to Homeland Security or not, would be responsible enough to alert DHS to such an obviously unsafe imbalance?


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I'd like to find a better source than the above, but it brings up some questions about this incident. In particular: we know that the plant was clearly over-capacity in its allotment of Ammonium Nitrate and the Department of Homeland Security didn't necessarily know about it. So the first question is... were the firefighters informed of the danger to begin with?

Before we talk about firefighting tactics, we should first know the information that the firefighters knew about. If they didn't even know about the danger that they were in, that would be the first problem. (and not necessarily the firefighter's fault either).

Second, we need to know how much ammonium nitrate there actually was in the plant. A question that probably will never be answered...
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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:47 am UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:I'd like to find a better source than the above, but it brings up some questions about this incident. In particular: we know that the plant was clearly over-capacity in its allotment of Ammonium Nitrate and the Department of Homeland Security didn't necessarily know about it. So the first question is... were the firefighters informed of the danger to begin with?

Before we talk about firefighting tactics, we should first know the information that the firefighters knew about. If they didn't even know about the danger that they were in, that would be the first problem. (and not necessarily the firefighter's fault either).

Second, we need to know how much ammonium nitrate there actually was in the plant. A question that probably will never be answered...


An excellent question. Presumably, it being a fertilizer plant, there was a presumption of at least some risk. They did evacuate the town, after all, which demonstrates recognition of a pretty decent possible mishap. However, it may well be the case that the scale of the risk was not fully understood...at least by the people on the scene. Hard question to answer for sure, though. Can't talk to the dead, and hell, disaster scenes are confusing even when handled well. Add in the fact that the owners may not even have complete data(and have incentives to skew the info), and the whole picture becomes a bit murky.

However, I must point out that a mere quantity being above(even much above) a red flag point does not inherently mean it is stored unsafely. That's as much about how you store it as the quantity itself. The mil, for instance, frequently has to deal with storage of damned large quantities of things what go boom. Usually things that do so much more efficiently than ammonium nitrate. Putting that in a single armory is doable, but you definitely want to have stringent safeguards in place.

EMTP wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Looking at the additional factors brought up by others, that if seems very questionable and unsupported. It may well be that additional improvements in firefighting are possible, but the stats given don't seem to be sufficient to prove that case.


I've recently become very familiar with your talents at rationalizing away facts and numbers you don't like, without providing a convincing argument of your own. As a result of that experience, I have very little interest in what you think is "questionable."

A vague appeal to "additional factors" notwithstanding, the facts are as I have outlined them. A high death rate, associated with an aggressive culture in firefighting, which cost the lives of a dozen first responders in this case, without any evidence of benefit to anyone.


Benefit in this case, or benefit overall? Those are very different things. Sure, lives were lost in this scenario, but it's an unusually bad scenario. That's why it's in the news. And Thresh pointed out fairly convincingly that the UK population and the US population of firefighters are very, very different in size...and don't have exactly the same challenges. It's not strictly an apples to apples comparison.

This is not "rationalizing away facts", it is recognizing the inherent limitations of the data you have provided. The situation may be as you say, but the data given does not strongly support that. If you compare deaths against the size of the population of firefighters in each country, you're definitely in the same ballpark. Close enough that differences in reporting and situation may very well account for the difference.

Stats are not something you merely quote, then proclaim the argument won. You need to examine them and understand what they're getting at. It's strange to me that the general public seems to view stats as something anyone can use with no formal training and a minimum of understanding. Nobody would take the same attitude towards calculus. Yet, I had to take calc as a prereq for my stats classes.

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby engr » Sat Apr 27, 2013 8:08 pm UTC

EMTP wrote:That's why it's important to look at the statistics and ask if our emphasis on interior attack and property preservation is why we have a high per capita firefighter fatality rate, and whether it is worth it.


The reason we have a relatively high fire LODD rate has little to do with supposedly aggressive interior firefighting. Absolute number of LODD, as well as number of LODD per capita, has decreased over the last few decades, but the number of LODD per fire has increased, even though firefighting is less aggressive now than it was 50 years ago, and even though we now have SCBA, TIC, and all the fancy toys.

Why do we get killed?
To put it bluntly, because we are fat, physically unfit, have little training, and drive like idiots.
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Doing more "surround and drown" operations and having more people in "safety officer" vests is not going to do crap. Having higher physical fitness standards and more actual firefighting training (including live structural burns, which are next to impossible to organize now, thanks to OSHA and EPA).
Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions. Gilbert K. Chesterton

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Re: Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire/Explosion

Postby Diadem » Sat Apr 27, 2013 11:05 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:http://www.politicususa.com/deep-heart-texas-lies-coverups-surround-fertilizer-plant-explosion.html
The company only filed its total tonnage with the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS). In turn that agency and Adair both said “screw the feds” and didn’t pass along that information to Homeland Security

I'd like to find a better source than the above, but it brings up some questions about this incident. In particular: we know that the plant was clearly over-capacity in its allotment of Ammonium Nitrate and the Department of Homeland Security didn't necessarily know about it. So the first question is... were the firefighters informed of the danger to begin with?

How is that organized in the US? Is it the department of Homeland security's job to inform local fire departments about dangerous materials stored in their district? That seems a weird way to organize things. I'd expect that to be the job of a state, or even local, department, such as the TDSHS. If I'm not mistaken over here in The Netherlands companies have to report such information directly to the fire department.

Fire-fighters going in without knowing what they are facing is inexcusable. That's really huge screw-up, on several levels. The fire department obviously should have known what is out there, but even if they weren't, they should have noticed this. Someone at the headquarters should have tried to go over those files and noticed they were missing. Finally, presumably there were people at the plant when the fire broke out, and they should have informed the fire department as well.

Of course we don't know if this is the case. But if it turns out to be, and it turns out the plant owners lied to the fire department about what they had, I think murder charges are entirely reasonable.
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