Local emergency responders react after TX fire, explosion

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - After the fatal fire and explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, many emergency responders in Region 8 are reviewing their safety protocols if something like that were to happen right here.

Region 8 is home to many storage units of similar chemicals that were stored in the Texas plant.

"We have two or three large facilities like that in the Bono area, we have the Murphy oil plant depot and a couple fertilizer plants," said Bono Fire Chief Trent Edwards. 

Edwards said the facilities usually have an emergency plan already in place.

"Essentially it's the companies' responsibility themselves to provide the fire department the information we need to fight that fire," Edwards said. 

He said the fire department has a list of all hazardous facilities in town and are trained on how to handle an emergency situation.

"They have a full booklet and training for us to go over with like how we put their fires out for the particular chemicals they have, what we do," Edwards said.

He said everyone at the fire department undergoes hazmat training even the volunteers. So when a fire breaks out at any of those facilities, they automatically follow the hazmat protocol.

"We are there to contain the fire, do what we can and the local clean-up crews that they contract will actually come in and finish extinguishing," he said. 

Branon Thiesse is an extension agent with the Craighead County Cooperative Service and said although they are no fertilizer plants in the area, they do have storage plants.

"There are at least 5 or 6 or 7 places that do store nitrogen based fertilizers," Thiesse said. "But it doesn't stay here very long because it's used as fertilizer on corn and cotton and rice and wheat"

He said the typical fertilizer used is urea, which is not as volatile as the ammonium nitrate.

"Our fertility people do a great job of keeping the security on their places, they keep it locked up and they have security cameras and things like that," he said.

Thiesse said they have never had an emergency situation at one of the storage locations.

"A fire at those locations could cause problems but I've been here since 1993 and we've never had a fire or any kind of incident involving any one of our fertilizer storage facilities," he said.

The explosion in Texas was caused by the anhydrous ammonia in the fertilizers, which can cause severe burns when combined with water and can lead to death.

Steward said the firefighters train at the local facilities about 3 or 4 times a year on emergency situations.

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