The horrific explosion at a West (TX) fertilizer plant brings to mind another devastating incident: the April 16, 1947 Texas City disaster, in which a ship fire set off an explosion involving ammonium nitrate fertilizer. As Greg Havel notes in his recap of the incident, the blast damaged most of the houses and other buildings in Texas City and set many fires. The official death toll was 581 people, including 28 firefighters.
As Fire Engineering‘s Roi B. Woolley noted at the time, “The Texas City tragedy is so epochal, so vast and far-reaching in its ramifactions and implications, and there are so many significant factors realting to its cause and effects, that manifestly it will be some time before the entire story can be told, if it ever can.”
You can download the original Fire Engineering coverage of the incident from our May 1947 issue as a PDF HERE (7.63 MB).