WEST, TEXAS – On the eve of the one month anniversary of a horrific deadly fertilizer plant explosion, Mayor Tommy Muska defended the actions of firefighters and responders.
In a written statement to media outlets in Texas, Muska said he felt it was necessary to put to rest the second guessing and criticism he’s heard.
The April 17 explosion killed 10 firefighters, and five residents. Muska, a West firefighter, lost friends.
“Let me say first and foremost, the West Fire Department and West EMS emergency plan worked. The responders who responded to the fire that night were fully aware of what the West Fertilizer Plant meant and were aware that hazardous chemicals were stored there.”
He said being volunteer doesn’t mean they were “underprepared.”
Muska said after a quick assessment, crews “retreated to a safer, defensive firefighting position.”
While that was happening, he said others started evacuating citizens out of harm’s way.
He said the blast changed operations from one of firefighting to assessing casualties, triaging and helping the injured.
The mayor said he tried to quell the flames, but was unable to as there were water issues.
Meanwhile, the injured were being moved to the high school football field that had been turned into a triage area.
He said responders from all over the area headed to the scene. Dispatched or not, he said they were appreciated.
Muska said he needed to set the record straight – that the city’s and McLennan’s emergency response plan worked.
In the hours immediately after the explosion, an injured and emotional Muska addressed the media.
However, he later stepped back from the press conferences in front of city hall. A councilman kept residents informed.
Firehouse.com was unable to contact Muska Thursday. Officials at city hall and his office said he was attending a meeting in Waco.
They wouldn't say if it was a meeting with federal officials who are expected to announce findings.
In his letter to the paper, Muska noted that in two hours, half the town was evacuated, fires were being extinguished and 200 people had been triaged, treated and transported to hospitals throughout the state.
“The West Volunteer Fire Department, assisted by many other well-trained first responders, accomplished the task in front of us that night, and, that was the protection of the citizens of West.”
The mayor’s comments also came within hours of federal authorities announcing what their probe has shown thus far.