Texas disaster conjures up memories of Pepcon blast - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Texas disaster conjures up memories of Pepcon blast

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HENDERSON, NV (FOX5) -

For some longtime Las Vegas residents, the explosion near Waco, TX at a fertilizer plant is hitting close to home.

On May 4, 1988, a fire at a solid rocket fuel producing company in Henderson leveled the plant, leaving two people dead and more than 300 injured.

"It felt like something hit the station, something big hit the station," said FOX5 Program Director Leilani Molinaro. 

The FOX5 studios are located some two miles from where Pepcon was built at American Pacific Drive near Gibson Road.

"We thought a plane had hit the back of the building," Molinaro said.

The fire at Pepcon broke out while welders were trying to repair a steel structure near 55-gallon barrels of solid rocket fuel. Fire hoses couldn't reach the blaze that quickly went out of control, according to retired Henderson Fire Capt. Don Griffie.

In all, there were seven explosions at Pepcon. The two largest registered on the Richter Scale used to measure earthquakes. One registered 3.0, the second, larger one, 3.5.

"My family thought I was dead," said Griffie, who was one of the first responders to the scene.

He and his crew arrived just as the first big blast erupted.

"When we saw the shockwave, I told my engineer 'duck,' and we both ducked, reached our hands up and caught our windshield," he added.

Griffie said they didn't know at the time rocket fuel was being produced at the plant. The area where Pepcon once stood was fairly isolated in 1988. Griffie shuddered to think of the potential carnage if that same explosion were to happen today.

"There would be hundreds, thousands of people injured. Couldn't even tell you how many would have been killed," he said.

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