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Fire marshal preaches safety, training after West

December 30, 2013 • Business


Robert Payne, center right, operator of RPA Associates sits with over 100 first responders and other business owners at a meeting headed by state fire marshal Chris Connealy, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, in Clifton, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

CLIFTON, Texas (AP) — When a fertilizer plant exploded in a small Texas town, killing 15 people and decimating homes and schools, it became Chris Connealy’s responsibility to stop anything like it from happening again.

The state fire marshal has spent the last eight months studying the explosion in West of stores of ammonium nitrate, a common but potentially dangerous chemical used in fertilizer. Now, Connealy and his office are embarking on a 68-stop tour of Texas to meet with first responders and businesses about how best to store the chemical and deal with a fire like the one the night of April 17 at West Fertilizer Co.

Distrust of government runs deep in Texas, and the explosion did not spur serious calls from lawmakers for new regulations or a statewide fire code. Any change to how hazardous chemicals are stored here will likely have to come voluntarily, through attempts at persuasion such as Connealy’s road trip.

The tour began this month in Clifton, a town of 3,400 that’s about 35 miles from West. More than 100 people packed the auditorium for the presentation. Some of them had gone to West on the night of the blast to help evacuate and treat Login to read more

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