Its been a long night, so bare with me.

Proof submitted to mods. I can answer questions until 3 pm Central time. Ask away.

Edit Feel free to continue posting questions after 3. I will check on this thread for the rest of the evening, I just won't be watching the computer.

Edit 2 I'm back for a bit now. It is 7:15 CST

Comments: 105 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

dabeeisme16 karma

First, I just want to say that you thank you for making the choice to help others the way you (and so many others have) I was on the road to becoming a paramedic a million years ago, then reality set in that we would be pulling 48 hour shifts, and our families do NOT come first. Being a medic comes first. I decided to start my family, and be a mom rather than becoming a medic. Although I do volunteer my time with our local Community Emergency Response Team. The sacrifices you guys have made to help the rest of us is much appreciated.

Second, Did they realize that it was going to explode before it happened? I mean, it was a fertilizer plant, I guess I don't understand why the fire fighters were still fighting that fire from the ground so close. I know that Responder safety is #1 importance, and someone in that plan had to know that Fire + Fertilizer = boom, they use it in bombs all the time.

My thoughts are continuing to be with you, your team, and the community of West.

firefightertx26 karma

We don't know what they knew because they are all missing. Main points: They arrived at the scene, realized there was a BLEVE risk, and began evacuation procedures of the surrounding area as a prcaution. They began applying water in an attempt to prevent the liquid from reaching its boilng point. They were unsuccesful, but the time that they bought with their lives, no doubt saved many others.

Thank you for your thoughts.

riodunga13 karma

"but the time that they bought with their lives, no doubt saved many others." HOLY SHIT. This is why most people, including myself, couldn't do the job.

Do you think the firefighters were aware of this fact at the time??? If so, how do firefighters mentally prepare for something like this?

firefightertx33 karma

I don't think they knew they were going to die. Whether that was ignorance or simply misreading the situation, we won't know. None of us could walk out the door, kiss our families goodbye, knowing that. Our local area has a saying, "We all come home." Any firefighter that gets into a situation and knows that they aren;t going to get out, will say their goodbyes and state their wishes over the radio. We could all die at any time, and every one of the first responders that died from the primary explosion--died INSTANTANIOIUSLY. One minute, they were wth their brothers, doing what they love, and the next instant, they were gone. I think most firefighters and their familes hope that, should their loved ones fall in the line of duty, it would as quick and as painless as that.

gonzos_nose3 karma

Very powerful paragraph to read. I would hate to receive a phone call about something happening to my brother. Though like you said if something did I would rather it be quick then having to sit in an ICU room for 3 weeks before it happened.

Will make me worry about my brother every time he goes to work with the DFD now.

firefightertx3 karma

Firefighting is a very safe job. We work very hard to keep it that way. Unfortunately with anything things can go wrong. Your brother is doing what he loves. Dont fear be proud of what he does.

PhantomPhun-4 karma

Really tragic. Why would a department risk lives just to apply water? Water cannons, towers, and other apparatus can remotely apply water. Humans should be held back strictly for rescue of other humans, and other tasks that require specific hands on skills.

Both a tragedy and a waste.

firefightertx2 karma

From being there and seeing what happend. It didnt matter how close they got. If they had been 100yards from it and put water from there "something that cant be done" they would all still be dead. Anything withen a 6 block area is gone. And we are talking about very light weight trucks. Google "brush truck" to get an idea of what most FD in the USA has. Not everyone looks like Ladder 49 or Backdraft. The waste here was not tragic it was heroic.

firefightertx2 karma

At this time for the whole of Hill county there is one ladder truck. This truck must cover an area the size of a small city in dallas. And was not called in untill afer the blast. We know how to fight fire with what we have. SHIT HAPPENS. Whats funny is bad calls like this come in all the time, and mostly everything goes as planed and everyone gets to go home. But when something goes bad it goes very bad. And people think we dont have a clue. If the plan used worked.....you and most of the world would never know about the west fire departments heroic "saving" of the plant.

Nobody cares when we get it right.

Huplescat223 karma

Tragically, it may have been the water applied to the anhydrous ammonia that initiated the blast. How are volunteer firefighters in a small town supposed to be aware of that kind of potential? The plant managers, however, should have known and they should have been on hand to advise.

firefightertx6 karma

Any tank like that should have been marked NO WATER. There was no water applied to those, but the ammonium nitrate tanks--to stave off BLEVE

umma_gumma11 karma

Greetings from India. No question from my side. Just keep up the good work.

firefightertx12 karma

Thank you.

firefightertx26 karma

And Howdy.

firefightertx8 karma

Thank you all so much for the questions o hope u all get a good night sleep. I would like to qoute the firefighters payer as i close this AMA.

http://earth.vol.com/~anderson/cfdweb/prayer.html

Take the time to read it. We all do everytime we take a call. Thank you all and god bless the brothers i have lost.

campermortey7 karma

Is this the worst incident you've responded to? Sounds like one of those once in a lifetime kind of calls.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Firefighters and come from a family of them. I appreciate everything you do!

firefightertx14 karma

Yes, I responded for triage. This is the worst I have ever seen. I would say that this is the worst any of the surrounding counties have ever seen. There were bodies on the ground, and due to the mass confusion, they were just 'black tagged' and left, uncovered.

campermortey9 karma

I'm so sorry. I'm sure you knew quite a few people involved.

firefightertx18 karma

Thank you. This is a community of small towns, and many of the firefighters/first responders are close to, even related to each other. It is very hard on all of us.

limbodog7 karma

Hi. Do you know if this was unavoidable because of the fire? Or do you think there was some negligence involved? (like equipment that failed etc.)

firefightertx10 karma

Unfortunately, at this time, very little is known as to the events leading up to the disaster. Sadly, all of the responding personell at this time are assumed dead. This includes the majority of the West fire department, a group comprised soley of volunteers.

limbodog3 karma

How long after the initial fire call did you get called in?

firefightertx9 karma

Within minutes.

Neurobiologist4 karma

Within minutes of the initial call, or the news-worthy explosion itself?

firefightertx7 karma

I am unable to answer this specifically.

heyyyouguys7 karma

Were you called in from a surrounding city?

firefightertx11 karma

Yes. Called in for mutual aid.

Drag_king6 karma

Thank you for what you do, today and all other days.

Would the fire department in West be expected to have enough equipment to tackle a major fire like that by itself? Or is it so small to have all the equipment and is normal procedure to have other fire departments join it?

firefightertx10 karma

No, they did not have enough equipment. It's common for the small towns in this area to call for mutual aid on a regular basis. Most of the cities in the area don't have hydrant systems in their towns. Even a normal house fire can take 20,000+ gallons of water to put out, and most local departments' trucks can only hold 1-3,000 gallons at a time. We all have signed mutual aid agreements to help each other under any circumstances by just asking for it. This mutual aid is competely free.

cuzzard2 karma

do you guys rely on water shuttle method of keeping the pump truck fed?

firefightertx1 karma

If we have to truck it in yes.

PhantomPhun0 karma

No slam against anyone's bravery, but rather the poor strategic planning of an area knowing they have a major chemical facility, and sending humans on site to deal with an emergency. The best worst choice would be area evacuation, not under supplied futile efforts. Even if it hadn't exploded, it is misguided to send tiny equipment into a major risk like that plant.

firefightertx2 karma

With all due respect, you are wrong. We do not get tp pick our calls. And the fire that was called in was "at the time of the page" controlable. At the point it was looking bad the call was made to pull people out. To do so would have ment more lives lost in nearby houses. God forbid that we just said nah thats to big for us and watched it burn for the couch at home. I know it might be hard to understand why the calls made happened. But we make the best of what we have when we MUST....not when we can.

cuzzard2 karma

was a pre-plan assessment done in advance ot know potential danger spots and chemicals housed in the complex?

firefightertx2 karma

Keep in mind that we are talking about a short time line here. They didnt know what was burning untill they saw it on sight. And when they saw it, the plan used was the right one. It just didnt work. Its easy to play armchair quarterback monday morning.

oooded5 karma

thank you in the first place.

do you think this event will change your perspective on life? if so, what especially will change for you?

firefightertx11 karma

Thats an interesting question for me. It's hard put into words. Every call has taught me something. From the very first, to this most recent. Yes, it will change my perspective on life, and on how I train. People die. I have a job because people die, and because people need help. But when you see it on such a large scale, and it's practically in your backyard, it really drives home the point of how small we are, in such a big game. I saw many friends last night, and we all made many new friends. Coming from a family (that is the fire/EMS service) we all know losing someone is a possibility. But to lose so many makes things especially hard--on top of the other lives lost. Shit, every time we go to a car accident, we think, "Someone is going to get hit by a car..." And that feels like something we can deal with. But when the whole fucking town gets blown sky-high, it's something completely different.

Thanks for the question.

gymrat145 karma

What was your role once you arrived at the scene?

firefightertx10 karma

I worked in triage. I initally responded to the triage at the football field, then we were evacuated from fear of another explosion, and also the fumes.

DasUberRedditor4 karma

Do you know the time between initial fire and explosion?

NJ FF here. We all know the day might come where we go on our last call but we can't imagine what that really feels like.

firefightertx7 karma

It was between 20 and 40 minutes after the first 911 call. There is some dissagreement regarding this time.

AIMLOWJOE3 karma

Why in State as big as Texas was a Chemical plant so close to a residential area? PS, I know you aren't the guy tot answer this. But WTF? Rebuild it in the sticks!

firefightertx10 karma

As far as Ican say, the small town of West started out as a place to work, and to build a home/family. Then the town grew, and things ended up being built together. You've got a county line on one side of town, and a major highway on the other. You can really only go north or south when it comes to growth. A tragic mistake.

manwolfchild3 karma

much love from waco... it's people like y'all that make me proud to be a texan. will be giving blood tomorrow morning.

firefightertx4 karma

Thank you. Please encourage your co-workers, family, and friends to do so also.

Erthe3 karma

I come from a small town too (<800 people) so I know that this is going to be incredibly hard on you. With the nursing home damaged and the fertilizer storage/production leveled, do you think West will be able to survive as a town? Or will people move away to Waco and other surrounding communities? Any word on government aid for relocation and clean up?

firefightertx6 karma

West is a thriving and proud Czeck and German population. They do not give up. If any local community coud take a tradgey like this, rebuild, and continue growing, it would be West. We would all do well to support them, though, by coming to West Fest (the annual festival held downtown) Gov. Perry has released emergency funds and personnel also.

Erthe1 karma

I don't suppose West Fest would be similar (in time or in theme) to the Polka Fest held in Ennis? I'm glad to hear that the state has already begun helping y'all out. Wishing you the best.

firefightertx4 karma

It's West's version of Oktoberfest.

Confused_Daily3 karma

First off thank you for what you do! Do you know any way that I can volunteer in the search and rescue or a way to help out?

firefightertx6 karma

As far as volunteering, check with local efforts in your area for your communities' effort. At this time, volunteers are being turned away from the West site.

You can always donate money, clothes, blood, etc.

We should all make plans to arrive at the funerals in force to stave off the WBC.

Confused_Daily2 karma

I'm in Waco so not a far drive. As far as donating, I'm trying to see if we (my company and I) can organize something to help the people of West with a vision fan. So people who don't have glasses because of the rush can see again. Other than that I'm donating clothes and food to the places around the community.

Thanks for everything and stay safe!

firefightertx2 karma

Best of luck.

aero19922 karma

[deleted]

firefightertx3 karma

GO for it!

aero19922 karma

[deleted]

firefightertx3 karma

Study hard. Go on ride outs. Lots of places have 'Explorer' programs that allow you to see if this is the right thing for you.

If it isn't your thing, there are always lots of other things you can do for your community. Best of luck.

mistkimoto2 karma

How has the reaction of the general population, the people?

What was the scene like when you first got there?

How do you mentally prepare yourself?

firefightertx16 karma

As far as mental preperation: You train as much as you can, you trust your partners with your life. Remember that 80% of the nations firefighters are made up of volunteers. We dedicate our time, and sometimes our lives. The pubic is responsible for providing funds for our training. When these funds aren't available, we have to provide the training ourselves.

Please remember your local volunteer fire departments at their next "Fill a Boot", pancake breakfast, car wash, etc. You aren't just buying a new truck, you are providing life saving training and equipment that we can use to save your family/home/belongings in a fire.

firefightertx12 karma

Reaction: shock. People jsut walked around aimlessly, searching for lost family members. Trying to communicate on their cell phones. Because of the heavily damaged nursing home, there was 130 residents/staff injured plus all of the familes trying to find 'grandma'. People were so distraught, they didn't even realize they had glass sticking out of their arms.

MrAceyAce2 karma

What were you doing before the explosion happened?

firefightertx6 karma

Living life as normal. As a volunteer, we are always on call and are called out at random intervals. It's as needed. Could be having dinner, changing the oil in the car, harvesting crops...

AwesomeIncarnate2 karma

What is the estimated injured and casualties at this moment? Any update on what might have caused this? Thank you for your service and helping these people in their time of need. You are a hero.

firefightertx8 karma

I cannot speak for any civilian casualties, because there are many that are still being processed at area hospitals and many that are unaccounted for (missing/buried in rubble), but as of this moment, we have 11 confirmed firefighter/EMS casualties. Hundreds injured. The investigation is still ongoing as to the cause. The aforementioned 11 are also confirmed heros.

Edit: I just heard that the body of my friend and fellow firemen Perry Calvin was found. Last tone 4/17/13

dildocave2 karma

What kind of chemicals were released in the explosion, and how much of a danger do they pose to the people of West and the surrounding areas?

firefightertx8 karma

It appears to have been a large ammonium nitrate tank (around 2000 gallon cap) as well as surrounding tanks filled with anhydrous ammonia. We were advised to remain clear of the smoke and to stay "on air" (meaning on oxygen tanks) wheneve possible. From what I've been told, the threat to the area is minimal.

Neurobiologist-29 karma

A FF saying "oxygen masks" when refering to SCBA masks is really really suspicious. You new to the business sir?

firefightertx21 karma

Most people don't have knowledge of firefighting equipment and apparatus, I figured that 'oxygen mask' might be better for Reddit.

firefightertx7 karma

liquid, not powder. big difference.

digger_ex_pat2 karma

What is the best way for us to help the victims/survivors?

firefightertx2 karma

Support your local fire department. And send money to the city.

greenbeansbeyummeh2 karma

Are you ok

firefightertx1 karma

Its going to be a while before anyof us know that. This is day three for me. And its only getting harder. They are looking for parts of people. At this point the "bodies" have been found.

nancyaw1 karma

Another Aggie saying "thank you" for all that you do, and did. We have lots of VFDs around here as well, and these are people that put their lives on the line for the good of their communities. They don't even get paid for it. As far as I'm concerned, all first responders should get free drinks for life. I would donate blood, but because I was in Honduras and Belize in January, my blood is off limits for a year, so I'll donate money and, of course, always stop at the Czech Stop for yumminess every time I go to Dallas (although I-35 was built by Satan himself and I usually take 45). You must have seen some horrific things, so how do you process all the sadness you deal with, and not let it impact your day to day life?

firefightertx1 karma

I wish I could find a way not to let it impact me, but it does. My family feels this too. Tonight the bodies of four firemen came from dallas after being I.D.'ed that was hard to watch the cars drive by. This week we as a "fire family" will be going to 11 services for our Brothers/Sisters we lost. I dont know how I will process this then. For now I am waiting.....for my next call.....

RankinFright1 karma

Have you foubd a man named Mark Meredith? I cant find my Father and im so scared. I live in Fl. and can not get a hold of him... :(

firefightertx1 karma

Im sorry I do not know at this time. My thoughts go out to you.

Nedadee1 karma

were any of your team harmed during the event?

firefightertx1 karma

We all got hurt. What we saw, and what we did.

water501 karma

Thank you for your services!! I'm currently a student getting my AS degree in Fire science and next semester i will be going to CSULA to work on my BS in Fire Admin. Any tips to help me get hired? Again, thank you for all you have done, and stay safe out there!

firefightertx3 karma

Always be honest with the hiring staff. They will value your honesty about past transgressions (if any) over a crystal clear background. They want someone trustworthy.

Neurobiologist-5 karma

Of what FD are you a member?

firefightertx8 karma

I am trying to remain anonymous. I can't answer that.

firefightertx5 karma

Proof has been submitted to mods.