Killeen Fire Chief J.D. Gardner confirmed he sent about 16 members of the Killeen Fire Department to assist in the explosion that erupted at the West Fertilizer plant Wednesday night.
At the request of Waco Fire Chief John Johnston, about eight to 10 members of the Killeen hazardous materials team, four to six members of the decomposition team and a single ambulance with two EMS personnel were provided to assist fellow first responders aiding in the recovery and decontamination effort Wednesday evening.
“If there’s nobody to go in and get, then they’ll be doing a lot of air-monitoring to make sure there’s no hazardous conditions downwind of the plant,” Gardner said at about midnight Thursday. “Of course, they have to prepare the wind is going to change direction in the next few hours.”
Gatesville’s Emergency Medical Services sent several units to also assist in the effort.
As of Thursday morning, officials say between five and 15 people are dead, and more than 100 are injured. Some firefighters who responded to the initial blaze before the explosion are still missing.
“The biggest concern right now is when the wind shifts (in the night), the volatile chemicals that are still in the air from the fertilizer plant,” Gardner said. “And then of course, potentially, if there is still a structure burning, and the wind changes direction, it could blow the fire to the unburned part of the building and cause it to get worst.”
Among the chemicals the hazmat teams will be monitoring include anhydrous ammonia, a colorless, highly toxic and pungent gas with suffocating fumes used as a fertilizer. Even small amounts of exposure could include burning of the eyes, nose, and throat. High levels of exposure to anhydrous ammonia can cause death from a swollen throat or chemical burns to the lungs.
There is also a worry that a second fertilizer tank could explode, whether due to structural failure or a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion.
Check KDHnews.com for more updates throughout the day Thursday.