West Firefighters Warned to Leave Before Explosion

Minutes before the burning West, Texas, fertilizer plant exploded on April 17, 2013, firefighters received a warning to evacuate the scene, but they did not heed it — a new detail that has come to light based on a recently released state report and interviews with two firefighters, reports The Dallas Morning-News.

The massive explosion involving ammonium nitrate — a common fertilizer — killed 15 people, including 12 first responders in the small central Texas town.

A former employee of the West Fertilizer Co., Brian Renegar, urged firefighters to abandon the fire at the fertilizer plant and evacuate the area immediately, according to recent interviews with members of the West Volunteer Fire Department.

Renegar, a former member of the West fire department, warned that the chemicals inside the plant could explode.

Kevin Maler, a West firefighter, said in an interview that he took the call from Renegar just as he was leaving his home in his personal truck and heading to the fire, which he could see from his home located a few hundred yards across a field just to the east.

Maler’s brother, David, also a firefighter, was headed there, too.

Renegar called from Tours, a small town about five miles southeast of West, where his daughter was attending a church class. Renegar told Kevin Maler that he could see the smoke and flames, and he asked, “What’s on fire?”

Maler told him the fertilizer plant was burning — specifically, a building where the fertilizer, including ammonium nitrate, was stored and mixed with other chemicals.

“Y’all got to get out of there,” Maler recalled Renegar telling him. “If this thing blows up, you need to be a quarter mile or half-mile away.”

Renegar could not be reached for comment.

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