Heat and ammonium nitrate may have contributed to West blast



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Posted on April 18, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 19 at 10:18 AM

DALLAS -- News 8 has learned the building that was the epicenter in Wednesday night's blast in West, Texas, was used to store ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

Ammonium nitrate was the explosive used in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. That explosion caused federal officials to regulate who buys ammonium nitrate, but not who stores it.

Farmers near West, Texas, say West Fertilizer stored ammonium nitrate and other fertilizer ingredients and custom-mixed them for farmers, a common practice in farming communities.

Intense heat can make ammonium nitrate explode, Dr. Rasika Diaz, chairman of the Department of Chemistry at UT Arlington, told News 8.

"Beyond certain temperatures, I believe it's about four-hundred degrees Fahrenheit, [ammonium nitrate] can explode," Diaz told News 8. "And it can decompose, creating an explosion."

Video shot on Wednesday night shows a fire raging near the storage building. Video of the blast shows the building blowing up. Shots of the scene Thursday morning show the path of the explosion emanated from the storage building.

Twelve years ago, 31 people were killed at a fertilizer plant explosion in Toulouse, France. And 66 years ago, 581 people died in an ammonium nitrate explosion in Texas City, Texas.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com