State Fire Marshal meets with emergency officials to discuss ammonium nitrate facility safety


GRAYSON COUNTY, TX -- The fertilizer facility in Athens contained ammonium nitrate, the same chemical housed in the plant that exploded in West, Texas last year, and the same chemicals found in a fertilizer plant right here in Texoma.

Thursday, the State Fire Marshal met with Grayson County emergency officials to review the best safety practices when working with facilities containing ammonium nitrate.

The State Fire Marshal tells News12 there are 95 facilities in Texas with at least 10,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate or more.

He fire marshal says with more concern for fertilizer fires, it is even more crucial for emergency officials to have a safety plan in place when working with hazardous material.

Following the West fertilizer plant explosion in April of 2013, emergency officials from all around the state are taking a look at their plans to prevent a similar tragedy, especially first responders in Whitewright, where two fertilizer plants are located. Both are on Bond Street by the high school.

"We are going over best practices, whether it be hazardous material instances, or general firefighter safety," said State Fire Marshal, Chris Connealy.

Connealy met with emergency officials from all around Grayson County to teach them how to safely handle ammonium nitrate and talk about emergency scenarios.

Connealy says a predetermined safety plan should always be in place when working with a hazardous material.

"Train on these events, and make sure we have a pre-fire plan these facilities," Connealy said. "The best way to get information about a target hazard community is to have the fire department go out there and do an assessment, so that if there is an emergency, they know what they're rolling into."

Whitewright Mayor, Allen West, says this information is vital for their emergency responders -- who would be the first on the scene if something happened at one of the plants in the city.

"When I look at this, I'll know more about the quantity and the force of it. I know it's very bad in the explosive feature but I'd like to have more personal knowledge so that maybe I can do my job better and protect the citizens better," West said.

Connealy says the West explosion killed 10 first responders and while no injuries have been reported in the Athens plant fire, he says being more aware of the chemical and how to deal with it in emergencies could save not only lives of the citizens, but of first responders as well.

"We wanna make sure the firefighters go home at the end of their shift," Connealy said.

To get more information about ammonium nitrate facilities, you can search the State Fire Marshal's website:

http://www.tdi.texas.gov/fire/Index.html


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