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Fire in Texas draws attention of local emergency responders

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 17 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 18 2013 06:23:40 PM CDT

The search for survivors continued Thursday in the tiny town of West, Texas after a fire at a fertilizer plant turned into a thunderous explosion.

The search for survivors continues in the tiny town of West, Texas, after a fire at a fertilizer plant erupted into a thunderous explosion.

As many as 15 people are said to be dead, and more than 160 people have been injured. Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Wednesday's blast, a "nightmare scenario."

Officials do not know what sparked the explosion that turned homes and businesses to rubble. The blast could reportedly be felt from as far as 50 miles away, and registered as a 2.1 magnitude seismic event.

"It was like a bomb. It like, picked you up. It just took your breath away, and then it dropped you and it exploded everything around you," said one woman who survived the blast.

Entire buildings in the area were leveled. Homes were burnt to the ground. Half the town was evacuated.

Firefighters who responded to the fertilizer plant may be among the dead, but the death toll remains unclear. Crews spent Thursday combing through the rubble.

"It is tedious, it is time consuming and it is a very methodical process they are doing," said Sgt. William Patrick Swanton, Waco, Texas Police Dept.

The blast in Texas has caught the attention of emergency management officials in Berks County. There's no facility quite like that here, but there are plenty of hazardous substances around the county.

"You always have to be mindful of anything can happen at a fire, a minor fire can turn into something large," said Chief Mike Roth, Spring Twp. Fire Dept.

According to officials in Berks, first responders go through extensive hazardous materials training, and they review information beforehand to know what's exactly inside each building they respond to.

"We try to make sure you know as much about it as you can before you go there, so you can act or react accordingly," said Tom Bausher, emergency management coordinator for the West Side Regional Emergency Management Agency.        

The explosion in Texas does not appear to be the result of criminal activity, but it's not being ruled out, said officials.

As crews continue their search through the disaster area, the death toll is likely to climb.