Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire Probed as Suspicious

Athens firefighters and residents were evacuated from the area.


Editor's Note -- A truck, trailer and zero radius mower were stolen from an Athens firefighter while he was at the plant fire Thursday evening, local medial reported Friday. 

A fire at a fertilizer storage facility -- probed as suspicious -- sent Texas firefighters and nearby residents scurrying Thursday evening.

About 70 tons of ammonium nitrate had just been received at the plant owned by East Texas AG Supply. That's the same compound that exploded, and left a dozen responders dead in West last year.

Athens Fire Chief John McQueary quickly pulled his crews back, and ordered all nearby residents evacuated due to the magnitude of the fire that was already through the roof.  Also, dispatchers called all available authorities to help in the door-by-door notification, according to KLTV.

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A command post was established blocks away, and McQueary monitored the blaze from there. Crews let the fire burn itself out.

The roof of the building collapsed, and there was no explosion. There also were no injuries.

On Friday, the chief announced authorities are investigating possible criminal activity due to the rapid progress. He noted the owner left the building at 5:15 p.m., and 32 minutes later the alarm sounded.

The chief said following the deadly tragedy in nearby West, he and his crew have researched possible threats and become more prepared.