5 Years Ago: Fertilizer blast kills 15, injures 200 in West

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Five years ago this Tuesday an explosion devastated the Central Texas town of West. The town is still rebuilding as investigators continue looking for the person responsible.

April 17, 2013, was a day that changed West forever. A fertilizer plant, which was located in the middle of a neighborhood, was intentionally set on fire, according to arson investigators.

The fire spread from a storage room to another storage facility that contained several tons of ammonium nitrate. The explosion was felt and heard from miles away.

A total of 15 people were killed, including 10 firefighters, two first responders and three residents. Two of the town’s schools, an apartment complex and a nursing home were destroyed. The damage totaled $100 million.

West Police Chief Darryl Barton was on vacation overseas when the fertilizer plant exploded.

“It was surreal to see that literally on the headline of a newspaper on the other side of the world,” he said.

Chief Barton says people are still left wondering without an arrest.

"Never say never because there’s always a possibility some information will surface,” the chief said. “But that being said, we don't want to say lose hope.”

Mayor Tommy Muska says he's keeping an open mind about the cause.

"I can't see in my mind somebody intentionally setting that fire,” the mayor said. “I'm from West. That would have to be an act of pure evil. This is a small town of 2800 people. Not a lot of secrets in this town."

Investigators were never able to identify the person who set the fire. So on the fifth anniversary, the Texas Advisory Council on Arson is offering a $1,000 reward for information that can help lead to an arrest.

“Someone knows who started this fire and we need to put this horrible event behind us," said Tim Oates, ATAC chairman and Coppell Fire Marshal. "One phone call to the Texas Arson Hotline could do it."      

Tipsters can remain anonymous by calling 1-800-434-7345. They could also be eligible for up to $50,000 in rewards from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

A vigil is planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the town’s new high school. The ceremony will include special guest speakers, songs, prayer and a moment of silence for the victims.

The mayor says the vigil is about helping people heal and moving forward.

"If you look back, you'll fall down. You face forward, face the challenges and the adversities that come your way and tackle them."

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