Nearly all the members of the West Volunteer Fire Department in Texas are dead or injured after responding to a fertilizer plant fire that sparked a massive explosion. The tragedy puts a spotlight on the role of volunteer firefighters.
With missing teeth and an arm in a sling, one of the few remaining members of the West Volunteer Fire Department paced around the fire station Friday. He barked orders to the few people there – to clean equipment, install new gear from neighboring towns, and organize supplies.
It was an effort to restore a sense of order two days after a massive fertilizer plant explosion killed or seriously injured 22 first responders alone in West, Texas – a town of 2,800 that's still made up largely of Czech immigrants.
Authorities on Friday confirmed 12 dead in all, including 10 first responders. Most of the surviving volunteer firefighters remained in area hospitals, many with serious injuries resulting from a massive blast that some here likened to "a nuclear bomb."
Among the volunteer firefighters lost were a pair of Czech-American brothers, Doug and Robert Snokhous; the city's secretary, Joey Pustejovsky; and Jerry Chapman, a goateed individual who was taking an EMT class when the call came about the fertilizer plant.