West Explosion Caused By Intentionally Set Fire, ATF Says

The 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West that killed 15 people, destroyed more than 500 homes and left a crater 93 feet wide and 12 feet deep was caused by a fire that was intentionally set, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Wednesday.

"We have eliminated all reasonable accidental and natural causes," Rob Elder, the special agent in charge of the ATF's Houston field division, said at a press conference held in the small Central Texas town Wednesday. 

The ATF determined some months ago that the blaze was criminally set but has held information back in order to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation. Elder said the information was being released now to help catch the person or persons responsible for the deaths and destruction.

"We are headed in the right direction, and we are asking the public for help," he said.

The ATF is offering a $50,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest, but Elder did not comment on what charges anyone accused of setting the fire might face, refusing to speculate as to any potential murder charges.

Elder also said his agency only investigated whether or not the fire was intentionally set and had no opinion as to whether the way in which fertilizer was stored at the plant might have affected the blast.

Anyone with any information regarding the blast is asked to call Waco Crime Stoppers at 254-753-4357.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young