By Tammye Nash
Cleburne Times Review
Editor's note: Sharing a story from our sister publication in Cleburne
WEST — Audrey Todd was visiting her mother in Ross — about 10 minutes away from her home in West — around 8 p.m. Wednesday when she received a call from a neighbor.
“She told me, one of the plants has blow up,” Todd said. “The whole town of West is on fire.”
Speaking by phone from her job in Waco on Thursday, Todd said her home escaped damage in the initial blast. But her initial relief evaporated amid news reports that authorities fear a second tank inside the still-burning plant site could explode.
“Last night, the wind was blowing away from my house. But today, the wind has shifted. If that second tank explodes, my house will be destroyed,” Todd said. “That tank was already seeping last night. They were trying to control it but I hear that they are saying today that they are afraid it will explode. If that one blows, it will take the rest of West with it. There won’t be anything left.”
Todd said when she got the call from her neighbor, she immediately headed for her own home in West, forced to take back roads because main thoroughfares were all blocked. She was determined to try and rescue as much as she could from her house in the event the fire moved her way.
“It was horrible,” Todd said. “You could see the flames and smell the fumes. There were ambulances everywhere, sirens blaring.”
When she loaded her belongings and was driving to safety, she drove over an overpass crossing Interstate 35W and was struck by the sight of first responders pouring into town.
“All you could see was a sea of red and blue,” Todd said. “There were fire trucks and cops and ambulances and motorcycles — every kind of [emergency vehicle] you can think off, all headed to West. Five counties came to help.”
Every road into the area was flooded, vehicles packed bumper to bumper with first responders and emergency vehicles headed into West, and residents and visitors headed out, trying to escape the devastation.
Todd said after she left her house, she went to the auction barn in West — the place where media were gathering along with police, firefighters and other first responders who needed something to eat or drink.
“I went there to help out, to get tea and stuff for the firemen and the police officers who needed it,” she said. “At one point, I was sitting outside in the parking lot and I saw this guy pacing back and forth. We thought he might be hurt, so we went and asked him. He told us he had a video of the explosion, and he said his two daughters were still in West. He was trying to get to them, but he couldn’t get in. I don’t know what happened, if he ever found them.”
Todd said Thursday morning authorities had the area on lockdown, not allowing anyone but emergency response personnel to enter the area.
“They are only letting in the EMS workers, the cops, the firemen. Just them and the Red Cross,” she said. “They are afraid that second tank is going to blow, and they are making everyone leave. I don’t know what’s going to happen now.”
The Cleburne Times Review is a sister publication of the Daily Sun.