DALLAS (December 28, 2013) The Dallas Morning News Saturday named the first responders who put themselves in harm’s way on April 17 after fire broke out at the West fertilizer plant, causing a massive explosion, as its Texans of the Year.
The paper announced its choice online Saturday ahead of an editorial to be published Sunday.
Ten of the 15 people who died in the April 17 explosion were firefighters or paramedics and two others were helping the first responders fight the initial fire at West Fertilizer Co., when tons of ammonium nitrate detonated in an earth-shattering blast.
“Firefighters and paramedics, backed by civilian volunteers, put themselves directly in harm’s way on that evening as the dangers grew. Call them heroes, but they’ll deny it. They were just doing what had to be done,” the newspaper wrote Saturday.
“Those who answered the call in West make us proud to be Texans. They are the 2013 Dallas Morning News Texans of the Year.”
West firefighters were dispatched to the plant at 7:32 p.m. on April 17, arrived at 7:38 p.m. and requested assistance from other departments at 7:41 p.m.
The plant exploded at 7:51 p.m.
As much as 64 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored in the building, 28 to 34 tons of which exploded, investigators said.
An additional 20 to 30 tons in the building and another 100 tons in a nearby railcar did not explode, they said.
The total amount of ammonium nitrate on the site was about 150 tons, less than 270 tons that federal records indicated was stored at the plant.
By comparison, the amount of ammonium nitrate that exploded on April 17 in West was about 12 times the amount used in the truck bomb that blew the side off of the Albert P. Murrah federal building on April 19, 1995 in Oklahoma City.
The blast, which left a crater 93 feet across and 10 feet deep, scattered debris over a 3,000-foot radius and one piece of evidence was found two-and-a-half miles from the blast site.
The explosion leveled an apartment complex, heavily damaged a nursing home, and caused irreparable damages to three of West’s four schools.
The explosion also destroyed more than 150 homes, caused major damage to another 50 and minor damage to about 45 more.
It also did about $17 million in damage primarily to West’s water and sewer systems