In West's case, the plant, owned by the local Adair family, was built in 1962 at the edge of a farming community settled in 1892 by emigrant Czechs. As the years went by, the town grew out, past, and around the plant, in a careful embrace underscored by a recognition among at least some in town that danger was ever-present.
One resident watching the fire said a plume of yellow smoke that suddenly erupted was a signal that the ammonium was about to go, an accurate prediction as it turned out. Meanwhile, the plant had been cited as late as 2010 for problems with ammonia venting and for the failure to have a complete emergency plan. Meanwhile, the US inspection protocol for such plants isn't the most intensive, in part because states are primarily responsible for inspections: The US Occupational Health and Safety Administration, meanwhile, has inspected only six Texas fertilizer plants in the last five years.
An agency called the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, however, did inspect and cite the West plant in 2011 for "not having a security plan." After the plant corrected the problems, a $10,100 fine was reduced to $5,250. Before that, the plant had received a $30 fine in 1985 in connection to how it stored anhydrous ammonia at the plant.