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Fire Codes


One thing about Texas is how strongly its residents buy into the whole mythologizing bullshit about how great it is. This is true even of a lot of lefty Texans, as I found out in my 3 years there. It’s eyerolling at best. At worst, it helps lead to workplace deaths. As we already knew, the West fertilizer explosion is going to make absolutely no difference in regulating workplace safety in Texas going forward. Texans themselves have the basic response: “We’re Texas and we don’t do it that way. Go Cowboys!” But there are real things that Texas could do to protect workers. Fire codes for instance:

But federal officials and fire safety experts contend that fire codes and other requirements would probably have made a difference. A fire code would have required frequent inspections by fire marshals who might have prohibited the plant’s owner from storing the fertilizer just hundreds of feet from a school, a hospital, a railroad and other public buildings, they say. A fire code also would probably have mandated sprinklers and forbidden the storage of ammonium nitrate near combustible materials. (Investigators say the fertilizer was stored in a largely wooden building near piles of seed, one possible factor in the fire.)

“It’s tough to overstate the importance fire codes would have made,” said Scott Harris, a former emergency management coordinator in Texas for the Environmental Protection Agency, who is now with UL Workplace Health and Safety, a safety science company. “Texas just hasn’t wrapped its brain around this fact yet.”

In chemical fires, firefighters often bear a heavy toll. Ten of the at least 14 people who died in West were firefighters, and two more were residents helping fight the flames. This week, officials from the state firefighters’ association said the 50-foot-tall memorial to volunteers killed in the line of duty, on the Capitol grounds in Austin, had no room left for new names, not even those from West.

But hey, Rick Perry and his friends are all about maximizing corporate profit, even though fire codes would reduce corporate profits by like almost nothing. Firefighters dying fighting fertilizer conflagrations, that’s just the price of freedom!

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