Officials Rule Out Fertilizer As Cause Of Fire

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Since the explosion that took place at the West Fertilizer Co. facility back in mid-April, members of the agricultural community have been collectively holding their breathes, waiting to find out if the blame for this blast would fall on one of the two fertilizer products being kept at the location: Anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate. Although industry experts believed these were the likely culprits, everyone from ag retailers that handle fertilizer to association heads have wondered and worried.

Well, everyone can exhale. On May 16, investigators ruled out both of these important crop nutrients as the cause of the explosion. And although a definitive cause hasn’t been determined, officials have stated that a faulty golf cart, a problem with the plant’s 120-volt electrical system or an accident/foul play are the most likely suspects. In addition, one of the first responders to the disaster was arrested last week for the possession of “bomb-making materials” (although officials have declined to provide further details on how these two events might be linked at the moment).

Like others in the industry, I felt a wave of relief when these details came to light. Virtually every expert I spoke with just after the disaster believed fertilizer would be cleared once the investigation was complete, but it was still nice to hear this confirmed by impartial officials.

[Poll: What should the industry do in light of the West Fertilizer disaster?]

Still, since the West Fertilizer explosion, associations such as the Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute have been very proactive in reminding ag retailers on the importance of fertilizer safety. And I 100% agree that now is the time for our entire industry to re-evaluate these procedures and strengthen them where possible.

If nothing else comes out of the West Fertilizer plant disaster, serving as a cautionary tale for the rest of the marketplace would be a fine lesson for everyone to learn.

Sfiligoj is the Editor for both CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines. He travels regularly to cover industry events and has been dedicated to the ag retail industry since he joined the staff in 2000.

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One comment on “Officials Rule Out Fertilizer As Cause Of Fire

  1. David Oberholtzer

    Apparently, you were not listening to the report by investigators. While the cause of the initial fire at West Fertilizer has yet to be determined, the explosion that resulted from the fire was caused by approximately 30 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer overheating and ultimately exploding. The ammonium nitrate was improperly stored. There was no sprinkler system and non-existant security at the West facility. Get your head out of the sand!