CDC unit now investigating West explosion


by ANDY PIERROTTI / KVUE News and photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndyP_KVUE

Posted on April 29, 2013 at 6:37 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 29 at 6:53 PM

KVUE News has confirmed a special unit within the Centers for Disease Control is now conducting its own investigation into the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion.

It’s called NIOSH, which stands for National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Of the 14 people who died in the explosion, twelve were firefighters or first responders. That makes it the third deadliest firefighter incident since 1977.

We’ve learned, NIOSH investigators visited the explosion site last week.

Its goal is not to determine what caused the fire, but to identify what contributed to the firefighter deaths like, whether policies were followed and how to prevent future tragedies.

In an email, agency spokeswoman Christy Spring added, “NIOSH firefighter fatality investigation and prevention program is intended to identify factors that contributed to firefighter deaths in an incident, and provide findings and recommendations in public reports to prevent future tragedies.”

“NIOSH does not examine issues related to legal requirements or regulatory requirements for fire departments. Those issues typically are examined by other agencies,” said Spring.

The plant stored ammonium nitrate at the facility, but according to state records it did not list it on its permit application.

According safety information we found, firefighters should “do not use water jets,” like a fire hose when battling fires involving ammonium nitrate, rather “use flooding quantities of water.”

It’s not known if the firefighters knew that at the time. NOSH’ report could take up to a year to complete.

Click here for more information on NIOSH's firefighter fatality investigation and prevention program.

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