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West, Texas, grieves for its first responders in blast's wake

April 19, 2013|By John M. Glionna
  • A donation bucket for support of residents and first responders is seen at the Little Czech Bakery in West, Texas. The bodies of 12 people have been recovered after an enormous Texas fertilizer plant explosion that demolished surrounding neighborhoods for blocks and left about 200 other people injured, authorities said.
A donation bucket for support of residents and first responders is seen… (Mike Fuentes / Associated…)

WEST, Texas--There’s a picture of this tiny town’s volunteer fire department, 19 men and women dressed mostly in red uniforms, with one T-shirt reading “Happy Happy Valley.”

But superimposed behind them is a sea of flames, an ode to the way five volunteer firefighters died Wednesday night in a mammoth explosion at a fertilizer factory here.

As a community of 2,800 residents grieved, as the bodies on Friday were still being pulled from the wreckage of the West Fertilizer Co. and adjacent buildings, a Facebook page has been created in memory of the first responders lost to the blaze and explosion that authorities say has killed more than a dozen and injured scores.

As many as four EMTs are missing. Countless other first responders are being treated at local hospitals, some in critical condition.

The page has an emblem of the department covered with a black ribbon. It also says “In Memory of West, TX Firefighters Last Alarm 4/17/2013.”

The site also includes pictures of some of the fallen firefighters along with comments from community residents and people from around the nation. By Friday morning, the page had more than 54,000 likes.

There’s a picture of 26-year-old Sean Collier, with the comment “You will never be forgotten.”

There’s a picture of Jerry Chapman, smiling with his red goatee, along with this caption: “Jerry Chapman was in class at the time the call went out for the initial fire at West Fertilizer Company. His friends and co-workers say he would not have missed a chance to go help people.”

There’s a picture of volunteer firefighter Joey Pustejovsky, standing next to his wife, wearing a yellow firefighter’s helmet.

One local resident posted: “Joey worked for us at Sears in the sporting goods area, always willing to help and to give the best service. My heart goes out to Kelly and his family at this time, it is just like him to be a first responder. May God give you peace.”

There’s a picture of Navarro County firefighter and West ambulance EMT trainee Perry Calvin, 37, who has been confirmed as one of the EMT personnel killed.

And there’s a picture of Dallas Fire-Rescue Capt. Kenny Harris, one of the dead, dressed in a crisp black uniform. He’s smiling.

The site is also full of tips on where to donate and about upcoming fundraisers. One poster included a video of “The Firefighter’s Song.”

Added one poster: “There are not enough words to express my sadness. So many caring people lost. Blessings to all the families.”


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