Reporting Jack Fink
WEST (CBS 11) - At the West Volunteer Fire Department, a day of mixed emotions. As they continue to mourn their seven firefighters killed when the West Fertilizer Company plant exploded, they take comfort in the generosity of country superstar Willie Nelson.
He held a benefit concert for West last month, and on Monday, one of his life-long friends, Donald Reed, presented the fire department a check for $80,900. “Heroes they were, even though they are not here, we should never forget them.”
Reed says Nelson was deeply touched by what happened. “Willie is so benevolent, so loving, so gracious.”
West Mayor Pro Tem Stevie Vanek says, “What he (Nelson) has done for us — with our fire department, and our fundraising, it would have taken us ten years to raise that kind of money.”
For the first time since the blast that claimed the lives of his volunteers, Chief George Nors was overcome with emotion. “Can’t express it — it’s emotional for me.”
He was injured while responding to the fire at the plant and is still wearing a brace.
“I’m doing better, I’m doing better. I got hurt in the blast, I’m still recuperating.”
The good news wasn’t isolated to West.
Nelson and the Abbott Methodist church also presented a check to the town of Abbott for $46,551.
Three of their volunteer firefighters also lost their lives.
“Willie’s always been generous to help us out anything we need in Abbott, he’s always been willing to donate or help.”
Back at the West fire department, the money will go for new equipment, such as pagers, beepers and radios.
The department has also received two donated firetrucks — a used pumper truck, and a brand new tanker that can hold 3,000 gallons of water.
It’s worth $250,000.
Vanek says, “This is a great donation for us,” according to Vanek, who explains the money will be used to buy radios, beepers, and pagers to replace those lost during the blast.
Some money will also go to the families of the firefighters killed.
Next week, the fire department hopes to resume responding to all fire calls in the city.
For now, they’re covering calls that come in only at night.
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