As the search and rescue phase continues following a deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, firefighters in Minneapolis are paying close attention.
At Station 11 on Thursday, members of the HAZMAT team were quietly listening to every word of the latest news updates about the devastating blast.
"Luckily, we don't get a lot of these huge scenes, but the potential is always there," said Minneapolis Fire Capt. Dennis Mack.
Authorities say the Texas plant handled two types of potentially dangerous fertilizers. Ammonium nitrate was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and other attacks -- including an attempt at the World Training Center in 1993. Anhydrous ammonia is on the top 10 list of chemicals leaked across the country.
"It's not only used for fertilizer, it's used for refrigeration -- another huge thing," said Mack.
"I'm sure there are rail cars coming through here full of it, with 35,000 gallons," HAZMAT Researcher Dean Anderson told FOX 9 News.
Across the metro, there are various potential risks from all sorts of chemicals. Mack and Anderson showed FOX 9 how they would predict a chemical disaster if an explosion or leak were to happen here. Sophisticated computer software helps HAZMAT teams calculate the potential risks of different chemicals found in various buildings.
On Thursday, the Minneapolis HAZMAT Team tried to figure out what they can learn from the tragedy in Texas. While no one wanted to second-guess the decisions of the volunteer fire department, the experts said those firefighters were put in an impossible situation.
"If that's all they have is 15 [minutes], they did an outstanding job" said Mack. "They saved hundreds, I'm sure, because this is bad stuff."
Mack believes the crews in Texas simply ran out of time while evacuating people, but he added that without those efforts, more people easily could have been killed.
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