Downtown Athens in Henderson County was evacuated Thursday evening after a fertilizer storage facility caught fire. The facility stores ammonium nitrate, the same fertilizer that exploded last year in West, killing 15 people.
No injuries have been reported in Athens, a town of about 13,000 people, which is about 90 minutes southeast of Dallas.
The fire started around 5:45 p.m. A five-block area was evacuated. As of 9:30 p.m., the fire still smoldered.
The facility, Ag Services, is three blocks from the Henderson County Courthouse, the Athens Daily Review reports.
Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders told the Daily Review that firefighters were going to let the fire burn out. The newspaper reports that “tons of ammonium nitrate have been transported each week to and from storage at the Ag Services location.”
The crumbling cinderblock and wooden structure has been the focus of News 8 investigations several times in recent months. Our stories examined how a building that appears to be a fire risk could house such explosive material.
Local [officials] have repeatedly said that the building, which has housed ammonium nitrate fertilizer for decades, is safe and not a danger. Despite the condition of the building, deliveries of the product have continued. Several times a week, a chemical truck pulls up in front and unloads tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer.
— Sammm (@SammySoftball6) May 29, 2014
Here's a report from KDFW-TV (Channel 4):