Fire that caused West Fertilizer explosion was a ‘criminal act,’ US agency concludes

The fire that triggered the fatal explosion in the West Fertilizer plant in Texas, US just over three years ago was an intentional crime, investigators from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have concluded. ‘The fire has been ruled as incendiary, which means this fire was a criminal act,’ said Robert Elder, the special agent in charge.

The explosion resulted in 15 deaths, 12 of them first responders, and injured more than 260 others. It also left a crater 93 feet wide and 12 feet deep. The ATF did not identify any suspects, and is offering a reward of up to $50,000 (£34,000) for information leading to an arrest.

In January, the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued its final report on the accident, identifying safety and regulatory lapses that contributed to the disaster. For example, combustible materials were stored in close proximity to fertiliser grade ammonium nitrate at the West facility, which the CSB says fuelled the progression and intensity of the fire, likely resulting in the detonation. In terms of the cause of the fire, the board identified three possible scenarios: faulty electrical wiring, a short circuit in an electrical golf cart, or an intentional act of arson.