FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 11/07/2013
STATE FIRE MARSHAL DEBUTS ONLINE AMMONIUM NITRATE IN TEXAS DATABASE
AUSTIN – In response to recommendations made by the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee, the Texas Fire Marshal’s Office has launched a website that lets Texans search for facilities with large amounts of ammonium nitrate, the chemical that ignited in an April fertilizer plant explosion and killed 15 people.
"I am very pleased with the State Fire Marshal's response to the Committee's recommendations," said Representative Ron Simmons, member of the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee. "The government has an important role in protecting and informing its citizens, and I believe the Fire Marshal's new online Ammonium Nitrate in Texas Database represents a good effort in meeting that goal."
The online database allows users to search by ZIP code to find storage facilities with more than 10,000 pounds, or 5 tons, of ammonium nitrate, a chemical commonly used as a fertilizer and industrial explosive. For security reasons, the database does not provide details on each facility or let users see all of the facilities in a list or on a map, which officials said was necessary for security.
Ammonium nitrate was the explosive used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, a fact not lost on
"We don't want Texans to just feel safer, we want Texans to be safer," Simmons said. "Making this information too accessible could pose a security threat to the state and the communities around these facilities. As we continue to address the problems brought to light by the tragedy in West, we must do so by striking a careful balance that increases both transparency and public safety."
Investigators believe between 28 and 34 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded inside West Fertilizer Co., causing a blast that registered as a small earthquake and destroyed a nearby apartment building, schools and homes. The new website is part of a larger effort made by Fire Marshal Chris Connealy and his staff to understand the potential dangers in Texas of stored ammonium nitrate.