The initial fire caused the West Fertilizer Company plant to be evacuated before the explosion, likely saving many lives. However, 15 died and over 200 were injured. Among the first confirmed dead were ten first responders to the fire and two volunteer civilian firefighters.
The initial cause of the fire was unknown, but an investigation into the incident found the cause of the explosion to be stocks of ammonium nitrate fertilizer stored in a bin inside a seed and fertilizer building on the property. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board determined that the explosion was preventable--the chemicals (primarily ammonium nitrate fertilizer) were not properly stored, and federal, state, and local regulatory agencies did an inadequate job of finding the hazard and correcting it.
In the years since, a wall in the city's only funeral home was inscribed with the words Never Forget and features pictures of those killed, the nursing home was rebuilt, and a new playground was built in honor of volunteer firefighter and West City Secretary Joey Pustejovsky.