They are farmers, car salesmen, business owners and city employees.
But when flames broke out at the West Fertilizer Co. Wednesday night, West volunteer firefighters and others left those jobs behind and rushed toward the danger blazing on the north end of town.
Those at ground zero of the thundering explosion never came home.
Grief and worry were etched on the faces of the men, women and children who gathered Thursday at the West Fire Station, desperately seeking information on the whereabouts of their loved ones.
While officials have backed off on their estimate of at least 15 dead, reports suggest that five West firefighters and at least three other emergency responders are among the missing and presumed dead.
Navarro County firefighter Perry Calvin, who was in West taking an emergency technician class Wednesday night, responded to the fire with a friend and both died in the explosion, according to Calvin’s father, Phil Calvin, the chief in Navarro Mills.
Calvin declined to identify his son’s friend.
Another firefighter from Dallas, Capt. Kenny Harris, who lives in West, also died, authorities said.
‘They love doing this’
Brent Bridges, 18, stood distraught and shivering in the cold rain outside the firehouse Thursday morning and recounted how his father Morris Bridges left home to fight the fire the night before.
“The mayor talked to my aunt, saying that he probably didn’t make it,” Bridges said. “I am just hoping that he was wrong.”
Brothers and volunteer firefighters Robert and Doug Snokhous also were missing.
From Florida, Marqee Snokhous spent the night and morning calling every hospital in the area hoping to find her father, Robert Snokhous, 47, and 50-year-old uncle.
As of Thursday afternoon, she said the family still had not received confirmation about her father’s or uncle’s fate.
“There’s not been anything official but the mayor did call my stepmom,” she said. “He told her that he’s pretty sure that they’re both inside the business in the plant, trapped in there. And that there’s a pretty high probability that there’s no survivors there.”
Snokhous, 23, said her father and uncle, both residents of West, had been volunteering with the fire department since she was a young girl.