ATF: West Fertilizer Explosion Caused By Arson, Offers $50K Reward

Officials believe it was intentionally set and called it a criminal act.

This story will be updated.

In a press conference on Wednesday the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the West Fertilizer Plant fire was intentionally set and a criminal act.

The agency said conclusions were drawn after more than 400 interviews, a fire-scene examination, a review of witness photos, videos and observations, along with “extensive scientific testing” at an ATF fire research laboratory.

The agency says “all viable accidental and natural fire scenarios were hypothesized, tested, and eliminated.”

“It is our highest priority to give victims of this tragedy an accurate explanation of what happened that day,” said Robert Elder, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Houston.

The fire caused ammonium nitrate to ignite, triggering a massive explosion on April 17, 2013 that took 15 lives. Twelve of the 15 lives were first responders. Much of a 37-block area around the plant was demolished.

Federal and state authorities said the investigation will move into focusing on who is responsible for causing the fire.


Senator John Cornyn applauded federal and state investigators.

“I’ve had the opportunity to visit West several times, including the days immediately after the explosion. This has to be a very tough blow. It’s one thing to think that this might have been just an accident. It’s another to know that it could well be the result of an intentional criminal act,” Cornyn said later in a press call.

Officials say those with information can contact 254-753-HELP or Waco Crime



Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required