State officials begin investigation into Athens fertilizer fire - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

State officials begin investigation into Athens fertilizer fire

Fertilizer Fire Investigation. Source: KLTV Staff. Fertilizer Fire Investigation. Source: KLTV Staff.
ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - Saturday, state officials began their investigation into why an Athens fertilizer storage facility caught fire.

The fire broke out just before 6 o'clock Thursday night at the East Texas Ag Supply storage building on Larkin Street. The building is one block from the downtown square in Athens. What was part the evacuation zone Friday was crowded with lawn chairs, families and fiddlers. Cliff McCall, a fiddler from Mabank, has been going to the festival since he was a kid.

"My dad used to come to this thing, so we grew up seeing a lot of the greats fiddle," recalls McCall.

The fate of the 83rd Annual Old Fiddlers Reunion was unclear after the fertilizer storage facility fire called for evacuations and first responders.

"We're so thankful that the City of Athens got this continued and the fire didn't put us out," says McCall.

A block away from the fiddler's reunion, roads are closed as the ATF and Texas State Fire Marshal's Office began their investigation into what caused the massive fire at East Texas Ag Supply. Officials say the storage facility was holding twice the amount of ammonium nitrate that the West fertilizer plant had when it exploded in April of 2013.

"West had a large facility with ammonium nitrate, gas, diesel... A lot more products that can contaminate and distribute," explained Athens Fire Chief John McQueary at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

The aftermath continues to be treated like a crime scene. Investigators have not ruled out arson.

"We consider any fire like that suspicious, so we put it under investigation mode," McQueary added.

While the investigators were hard at work, some fiddlers were hard at play and wishing there was a bigger crowd.

"The fire may have scared some [people] away. I expected to really see more," says McCall.

Still, he says he's happy to see the fire didn't fizzle out the festival completely. The state fire marshall's office says you can help their investigation by contacting them if you have any photos from the fire that show flames coming from the building as it's burning.

Copyright 2014 KLTV. All rights reserved.
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