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Smoke rises as water is sprayed at the burning remains of a fertilizer plant after an explosion at the plant in the town of West, near Waco, Texas early April 18, 2013. The deadly explosion ripped through the fertilizer plant late on Wednesday, injuring m
After a massive monthlong investigation, the cause of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion is still a mystery, authorities announced Thursday. They've narrowed it down to three possibilities: a golf cart, electrical problems and arson. Unless arson is ultimately found to have been the cause of the fire that led to the explosion, the answer may never be known despite investigators having sifted through 300,000 pounds of corn looking for evidence.

The fire started at 7:29 in the "seed room," and firefighters arrived at 7:38.

At 7:41 p.m., firefighters called for assistance. Ten minutes later, two explosions erupted milliseconds apart—one small and the other large. The plant was enveloped in a ball of fire and black smoke.

As fire had engulfed the plant, ammonium nitrate fertilizer stored in wooden bins had heated up and become less stable. Falling debris had hit the chemical, by then sensitive to shock, and caused the first blast, said Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner.

Investigators said the 28 to 34 tons of ammonium nitrate that blew up was equivalent to 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of TNT.

About 120 additional tons of the chemical did not explode.

Even if the cause of the fire is never known, we can know this: If you're storing hundreds of tons of explosive chemicals, safety precautions are important. Government inspections of facilities storing hundreds of tons of explosive chemicals are important. Not locating facilities storing hundreds of tons of explosive chemicals near schools and homes is important. Having more than $1 million in liability insurance at facilities storing hundreds of tons of explosive chemicals is important. The West Fertilizer Co. and the state of Texas ignored all that, and instead of a fire, there was a fire followed by a massive explosion.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri May 17, 2013 at 09:52 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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