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View Diary: Toxic Texas politics on display in fertilizer plant explosion (126 comments)

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  •  noweasels has a tribute diary on the victims (10+ / 0-)

    Many were volunteer firefighters and several worked for the fertilizer company.

    •  OK, then it's doubly puzzling that they (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dotdash2u, marty marty

      didn't stay away

      Seriously, I guess none of them were fans of the cable TV series "Greatest Engineering Disasters"? that at least once a month had an episode about massive chemical explosions?  And how the best (and really only) strategy was to retreat to a safe distance (or, to put it another way "run for your freakin' life") until the fuel source had played itself out?

      The main point being - there's not a huge expense in making this information known.  Just what went wrong here, especially in light of the information in your post?

      •  They didn't stay away because it was their job to (10+ / 0-)

        put out the fire for their town.  You know, duty and caring about your town.  Why they didn't blow the whistle on the problems, is a question that only the dead can answer.

        •  No I don't know (0+ / 0-)

          where in the USA is it a duty to walk (or run) into a death trap where your presence is utterly futile?

          That is quite a different scenario than being sent to "put out a fire"

          In any event, if there are such places where the former is expected, hopefully this disaster will provide some impetus to change things.  But somehow I suspect that even in Texas that is not the case and something else went wrong along the way.

        •  It was NOT their job (9+ / 0-)

          I'm a volunteer firefighter, and the training in our department constantly stresses this theme: You do no one any good by becoming a victim yourself. We plan how we would deal with fires involving the major structures in our community, and in some cases--such as a facility with a large propane tank--we acknowledge that there just isn't any safe way to put the fire out. Instead, we decide how far away we'd have to stay to avoid becoming injured or killed in an explosion.

          And that is not just a local policy. From Essentials of Fire Fighting (the International Fire Service Training Association textbook):

          Upon arriving at the scene, the officer in charge has to decide whether it is safe and/or feasible to attempt an emergency operation. ...The IC [incident commander]  must decide when the risks involved...are great enough to warrant limiting the actions of fire fighting personnel...
          The function of the fire service is not to add victims to the situation. The IC's first priority must be firefighter safety; the second priority is the victim's safety. The IC should never choose a course of action that requires firefighters to take unnecessary risks.
          •  Remember, they may not have known the hazard (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            skohayes, tacet

            It seems possible nobody knew there was ammonium nitrate there.

            "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

            by Catte Nappe on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 03:30:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Nobody knew? (4+ / 0-)

              When our department draws up pre-fire plans, we talk to the folks in charge of each establishment about the risks there, and get permission to visit the site for a practice run.

              There's a difference between "regulatory authorities weren't told" and "nobody knew".

            •  That's what I'm thinking too (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dotdash2u, a2nite, Catte Nappe

              Would they have been using water if they knew that there was ammonium nitrate there?

              “We are not a nation that says ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ We are a nation that says ‘out of many, we are one.’” -Barack Obama

              by skohayes on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 03:38:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Water is ok to use but not in a way (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                skohayes, Catte Nappe

                that pushes the stuff into organic or combustible materials. Like a fire hose shoving some onto a burning pallet. Oxidizes rapidly with that action- in other words, explodes. Water to "flood" is ok. See link for MSDS in above post of mine.

                When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.-Mark Twain

                by Havoth on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 05:44:02 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Hey Catte, see my post above with links (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Catte Nappe


                  Of greatest concern was up to 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, which the owner had properly reported to state authorities. Reporting the existence of ammonium nitrate is important because of the chemical's well-known potential to explode...By itself, when properly ventilated, the chemical is considered safe. So what caused the chemical to explode in West?

                  Explosion and pipeline safety expert Don Deaver said the likely trigger is the fire that raged just feet away from the storage building on Wednesday night.

              When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.-Mark Twain

              by Havoth on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 05:40:45 PM PDT

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        •  oftentimes a let it burn order (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dotdash2u, a2nite

          is standard.

          When an oil tank burns, they let them burn out

        •  stay away? (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DRo, Bugsydarlin, 417els, marty marty

          They didn't blow the whistle because they need the jobs very badly, they aren't scientist or engineers and so did not know the potential dangers, they are used to residential and ranch fires and staying away is not an option...

          What went wrong is the virulently anti-Federal-government attitude of our state "leaders". The last inspection was in 1985, I've read.
          You know..."OSHA interferes with your rights, costs jobs, and us macho Texans can take care of our own..."

          Duty and caring is for small town firefighters, not for Perry and Gomert and Rove.

          •  Do you have any evidence that OSHA was staying (0+ / 0-)

            away because Texas does not like them?  Perhaps evidence that there are fewer OSHA inspections in Texas than in other states?

            Otherwise I think you're just farting flying monkeys out of your arse.

            What went wrong is the virulently anti-Federal-government attitude of our state "leaders". The last inspection was in 1985, I've read.
            You know..."OSHA interferes with your rights, costs jobs, and us macho Texans can take care of our own..."
            If OSHA is at fault for not inspecting they almost certainly are solely responsible.
            •  I'm not a detective... (0+ / 0-)

              and like most media consumers don't have a bit of evidence about anything, just draw some conclusions from the mass of un-footnoted information that I find.
              You are right, though, the state might hate OSHA but it is the fault of legislators in DC who have un-funded it to the point where "it is said", that it would take 137 years to inspect all facilities in Texas, at the current rate.
              Wish I could footnote that...

              I buy and sell well trained riding mules and American Mammoth Jack Stock.

              by old mule on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 06:10:52 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Was the plant licensed to store Ammonium Nitrate? (9+ / 0-)

        I recall reading here and on Slate that the plant specifically mentioned in saftey documentation filed with the state that they had no fire/explosion risks, or so small a risk as to be negligible.  Perhaps if all they stored was anyhydrous ammonia that would be true, but certainly not ammonium nitrate.

        It could be the volunteer firemen who worked at the plant did not realize the dangers.  They might have thought it was an ordinary fire (although anhydrous ammonia is dangerous in a fire from what I gather).

        •  Yes, this is what I'm trying to understand (5+ / 0-)

          if that is the case, very little financial resources were required to prevent the catastrophe.

          And if the owners were so cheap as not to spend the 10s of dollars (quite literally, I'd think) to notify the proper authorities of the hazards involved, not only do they deserve to burn in hell for eternity but they also totally deserve to have the full force of civil and criminal prosecutions thrown their way . .. .

      •  I used to be in the munitions business (9+ / 0-)

        during Vietnam, in the military.

        We had a saying after the Bien Hoa disaster

        'when you see a fire start near bombs, there are two steps to take - "Long" and "Fast" '. It was my job to see that never happened at our base...

        Without geometry, life is pointless. And blues harmonica players suck.

        by blindcynic on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 01:51:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dotdash2u, skohayes, marty marty

          I was a load toad (weapons loader) in the Air Force and even though every jet had a fire extinguisher next to it, in the event of a fire with live munitions present, the instructions were to evacuate practically to the front gate of the base, the fire department would also have to be informed of how many munitions and jets are present so they would know what distance, if any it was safe to approach the fire.  That said, I respect the men who gave their lives, but trying to fight that fire, under those circumstances, with the equipment that they had, was impossible.  And there should be he'll to pay for not informing the local Fire Department especially when they are your neighbors and friends.  

      •  Hey the firefighters were lied to (9+ / 0-)

        about the presence of the ammonium nitrate.  Fire departments have access to information on file about all risky stored chemicals at all places in their response area.  But in this case that information on file was incorrect because the plant had lied.  THAT is why they didn't realize it was an explosion risk.  They were thinking, "We know they don't have any of the chemicals on this list of explosion risk chemicals because they would have been required by law to tell us if they do and they didn't tell us."

        •  And used foam instead of water had they known of (4+ / 0-)

          the ammonium nitrate, from what I've read.

          Can I get a Grey Goose on the rocks over here?!

          by G Contractor on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 03:05:36 PM PDT

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        •  Evidence of your assertion? Link? (0+ / 0-)

          Putting water on it doesn't make it explode. Pushing it into wood, or other organics, powdered metals, or Urea (another kind of fertilizer) with a strong jet of water will. The firefighters weren't lied to. They may have very well forgotten to have the MSDS with them though. It would be unusual for the Incident Commander at a fire though to forget.

          When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.-Mark Twain

          by Havoth on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 05:48:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  UPDATE (0+ / 0-)

            another MSDS sheet for Ammonium Nitrate states:

            EXTINGUISHING MEDIA: Non-flammable liquid. Use media suitable to extinguish source of fire.
            SPECIAL FIRE FIGHTING PROCEDURES: None in liquid state.
            UNUSUAL FIRE AND EXPLOSION HAZARDS: None in liquid state. Organic and oxidizable materials can sensitize dry Ammonium Nitrate to a readily explodable state; can detonate if heated under confinement with high pressure.
            If this is the MSDS the firefighters were working from (last updated Jan 2013) that may have been a cause.

            When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.-Mark Twain

            by Havoth on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 05:58:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Try reading what I wrote next time. (0+ / 0-)

            At no point did I make that claim that water caused the explosion.  That was other people who said that, not me.

            I was responding to the claim that the firefighters should have known not to approach a building on fire storing that much ammonium nitrate, and instead should have stayed back.  It had nothing to do with the decision about WHICH firefighting method to use once you decide to approach, foam or water.  It was about the decision to approach at all.

            The fact that they didn't know the building HAD the ammonium nitrate means it's not fair to blame the firefighters for deciding to approach.

            •  wasn't answering you ONLY, was to G Contractor (0+ / 0-)

              as well insofar as foam v water. Do you really think the firefighters didn't know there was ammonium nitrate on the premises? I was showing you as aside, the sheet that says: UNUSUAL FIRE AND EXPLOSION HAZARDS: None in liquid state.

              When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.-Mark Twain

              by Havoth on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 08:44:41 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Don't blame me for your poor decision (0+ / 0-)

                to apply a complaint to OTHER people's claims to my post and say where is my proof (of this thing you are NOW claiming you knew perfectly well I never claimed).

                And yes, the firefighters didn't know because that quantity should be reported.  The lack of such reporting would make them not think it was there.

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