(Photo courtesy of Kasey Murphy)
AUSTIN (May 1, 2013)—Investigators hope to complete their onsite probe into a deadly plant explosion by May 10, Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner told lawmakers Wednesday in Austin.
Kistner said Wednesday at a legislative hearing into the explosion last month that left 15 people dead that investigators believe they will wrap up their probe into the origin and the cause of the fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. by May 10.
The Central Texas plant caught fire and blew up on April 17.
A team of 80 investigators is combing through the 14.9-area and Kistner compared the work to an archaeological dig.
Texas State Fire Marshal Chris later raised the possibility that authorities might never uncover the cause.
Earlier Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told lawmakers that the plant was under no obligation to have an evacuation plan in place.
McCraw said there are more than 1,100 facilities statewide that store ammonium nitrate.
The fertilizer plant in West reported it could store as much as 270 tons of the chemical in February.
State officials also told the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee they have identified more than 40 similar fertilizer blending facilities in Texas.
The Texas House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee hearing Wednesday is the first into the deadly explosion.
The committee plans to hear testimony from representatives of state agencies with jurisdiction over such facilities including the Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management, Emergency Management Council, Office of the State Chemist, Commission on Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture, Department of State Health Services, and the State Fire Marshal's Office.
The hearing is scheduled to be streamed online live.
The hearing comes two weeks to the day after the powerful explosion at West Fertilizer Co. that killed 15 including 10 first responders and two longtime residents who were helping them.
The blast left about 200 injured.
The force of the explosion damaged or destroyed dozens of homes and buildings including a nursing home, a two-story apartment complex and three of West’s schools, only one of which can be repaired, according to a report from a firm hired to assess the impact of the blast on the facilities.