Tag Archives: ATF

Today in Texas History – April 17

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From the Annals of Industrial Explosions – In 2013, the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas exploded.  The explosion occurred after local firefighters arrived on the scene to battle a fire.  The enormous blast killed 15 including 10 first responders and 2 civilians who volunteered to help fight the blaze.  An additional 160 people were injured.  A local school and apartment complex were almost completely destroyed and a nursing home facility was severely damaged.

The initial investigation was unable to determine the source of the fire, but on May 11, 2016, the  Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms announced that the fire that led to the explosion was intentionally set.

 On April 22, 2014, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board released preliminary findings concluding that company officials failed to safely store the chemicals and that federal, state and local regulations regarding such hazardous materials were wholly inadequate.  The board’s chair, Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso, stated:

“The fire and explosion at West Fertilizer was preventable. It should never have occurred. It resulted from the failure of a company to take the necessary steps to avert a preventable fire and explosion and from the inability of federal, state and local regulatory agencies to identify a serious hazard and correct it.”

Some have disputed the conclusion that the fire was intentionally set.  To date no one has been charged in connection with the horrific explosion.

Today in Texas History – February 28

From the Annals of the Cults –  In 1993, federal and state agents attempted to execute on an arrest warrant for David Koresh (fka Vernon Howell) and followers at the Mount Carmel Center compound of the Branch Davidians near Elk.  Based on an FBI and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms investigation, authorities sought to arrest Koresh for possession of illegal firearms. The ATF’s plan to arrest the leader of the Branch Davidians went severely awry.  The BD’s were not surprised because a Waco reporter asked for directions from a mailman who happened to be Koresh’s brother-in-law.  When the authorities arrived they were met with gunfire and an intense firefight broke out.  Four agents and six Davidians were killed.  The violence and stories about the bizarre and possible illegal practices of the BDs (including child marriage, polygamy and child abuse) captured the attention of the nation during the 51-day standoff which followed.  Ultimately, the compound was attacked with tear gas and other weapons resulting in a fire which destroyed the comp0und.  Only eight BD’s survived the fire.  Koresh was likely killed by one of his lieutenants Steve Schneider who then killed himself.