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Eerie parallels between two Texas blasts

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

The explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, TX, happened 66 years and one day after a similar series of blasts in Texas City.

The town was very nearly blown off the map on April 16, 1947, when a pair of ships carrying ammonium nitrate, a volatile component of fertilizer, exploded.

More than 500 people were killed, including most of the Texas City fire department. And the grisly aftermath was captured on film by an 18-year old photographer.

"As soon as he got in the darkroom," says photo archivist and historian Story Sloane III, "he was overcome with - just let's say - the smell of death and destruction."

Sloane wasn't there, but he knows the details intimately. You see, that young photographer was his father.

Today, Story Sloane still displays in his west Houston gallery his dad's images from the Texas City disaster.

And Sloane sees many parallels in the two tragedies: both were small towns leveled by fertilizer-fueled explosions. And in both cases, a number of the dead were first responders.

"These men and women risk their lives every day for the better good of the community," said Sloane. "And to me that is an extremely honorable trait."

Story Sloane and retired Houston firefighter Scott Mellott have recently published a picture book chronicling the history of the Houston Fire Department.

The book includes sections on Houston's most devastating fires as well as a list of Houston firefighters who have died in the line of duty.

For more information on "A Pictorial History of the Houston Fire Department, 1895-1980," including a free look at Chapter 1, click here:

http://www.houstonfirememorial.org/HFDHistory/index.htm

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