Gas behind West, Texas explosion common in Borderland

Matthew Smith, Good Morning El Paso Weekend Anchor / Reporter
POSTED: 07:35 PM MDT Apr 18, 2013    UPDATED: 06:11 PM MST Jan 15, 2014 
EL PASO, Texas -

As first responders continue to search for the injured or dead in the tiny town of West, Texas, a look at how the explosion occurred is underway.

Numerous national media outlets report that 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia exploded on Wednesday. It's the same fertilizer used by most farmers throughout Texas, including the Borderland.

"Living so close to two plants, it's a concern of mine," said Celso Inostroza, standing on his front porch just one block away from a nearby business.

El Paso Valley Cotton Assn. Inc. is located mere feet from a residential neighborhood. A train track runs behind it, while the rest of the building is surrounded by homes.

Counties don't have a choice in zoning for areas like Clint. As a result, businesses are often found in the middle of neighborhoods.

Not everyone is worried, though.

In fact, Armida Guerra lives in the closest home to the building that stores the chemicals. She said it's nothing that worries her.

"They go at night, they go around over there and check and make sure that everything is fine," said Guerra. "We've never had any problems."

ABC-7 contacted the business on Thursday. One employee pointed out that no issues have arisen in her 40 years with the company. She also said that they're regularly inspected to make sure they're up to code on the multiple anhydrous ammonia containers that exist on their work site.

According to Popular Science, an online science website, anhydrous ammonia isn't something that combusts regularly. Their article states that the chemical must have the right percentage in the air and reach a temperature of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. A mere spark won't ignite the gas.