Debris litters area outside West plant explosion

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by Jeff McShan / KHOU 11 news

khou.com

Posted on April 21, 2013 at 1:42 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 24 at 7:04 PM

WEST, Texas - In front of the West Volunteer Fire Department, flowers were draped around the big ladder truck as a memorial for the heroes who worked here.

While many are mourning and waiting to get back into their homes, photographers got a first-hand look at the damage Sunday.

From the ground, it looked like something one would see after a powerful tornado went through. There were toppled trees, damaged vehicles and sheet metal scattered like leaves in the fall.

The blast hit some areas harder than others.

“Easiest way to describe it – think of a wave coming out and it may come up and down with it,” Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kitsner said.

The state is leading the investigation with help from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Our priority today is the line-of-duty death investigation for the firefighters and first responders who lost their lives in his incident,” Kitsner said.

Part of that includes trying to determine what caused the original fire, and then of course the blast. There is a huge crater where the blast occurred, and specialists are surveying every part of it to learn as much as they can.

“Getting in the hole, start digging that out to see what transpired that caused this devastation in this area,” Robert Champion, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Dallas office, said.

Another priority on Sunday is getting the railroad tracks fixed. “As a result of the blast the tracks were heavily damaged, and the railroad has been shut down north and south,” Kitsner said.

The tracks should be repaired soon, but the investigation could take weeks.

The memories, the nightmares will never go away especially at the West Volunteer Fire Department that lost much of its staff in just one night.

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