Texas Town Residents Slowly Allowed to Return After Blast

The fires are preventing those who live nearby from returning to their homes in the town of West.

Saturday, Apr 20, 2013  |  Updated 1:01 PM PDT
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West Remembers Victims of Fertilizer Plant Fire

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A railroad boxcar filled with ammonium nitrate lays on its side near to the remains of the fertilizer plant that exploded yesterday afternoon on April 18, 2013 in West, Texas. According to West Mayor Tommy Muska, around 14 people, including 10 first responders, were killed and more than 150 people were injured when the fertilizer company caught fire and exploded, leaving damaged buildings for blocks in every direction. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

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Fertilizer Plant 911 Calls and History

NBC 5 Investigates obtains 911 records after explosion and looks into the West Fertilizer Company's inspection history.
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Residents of the town of West, Texas will be allowed to return home in phases starting Saturday afternoon. Wednesday night's explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. killed 14 people.

Mayor pro tem Steve Vanek announced Saturday afternoon that residents from Oak to Walnut Streets would be the first to be allowed back into their neighborhoods.

Residents would need to have their vehicles marked by authorities to be allowed inside the blast area.

The city also said a curfew would be enforced starting at sundown and that residents would need to stay inside their homes or leave the impact zone by 7 p.m. and could not return until 7 a.m.

No vehicles larger than pickups would be allowed into the area and each family would be allowed only two vehicles.

Vanek reminded residents to be aware of broken glass, nails and debris from the explosion.

The Texas Department of Public Safety reiterated that the death toll was still 14 Saturday afternoon.

Vanek would not answer reporter questions about if anyone is still missing in the explosion.

Vanek said the city was working on a memorial for those killed in the explosion, but said it was too soon to provide details.

Small Fires at Explosion Site Contained

"It is safe, it is safe, it is safe, for our citizens, Vanek said at the beginning of Saturday afternoon's news conference.

The statement came after officials told residents displaced by the massive fertilizer plant explosion in Texas that tanks on site are leaking gas and causing small fires, according to the Associated Press.

They said the fires are contained, but they prevented those who live nearby from returning to their homes in the town of West.

He said the leaks were caused by tanks damaged by heat and had triggered small fires. He said no further evacuations were necessary.

Paramedic Bryce Reed visited a hotel crammed with displaced residents on Saturday and gave a short briefing.

Reed, who is also a spokesman for West, said there may be reports of "another explosion in West," but warned that those are exaggerated.

Residents Ready to Return Home

Many West residents spent all day Saturday at City Hall hoping to get an update from officials on when the road blocks will be lifted and they’ll be allowed to start picking up the pieces at home.

"We just want to get back home and get to fixing the house up. Get back to life. I know there's a lot of stuff that needs to be done to the perimeter," said displaced resident Pete Arias. "But it's not a huge perimeter."

Pete Arias, his wife Jackie and his 8-year-old son Sam have been staying with his mother in Waco.

Their house in the 900 block of Main Street was damaged but not destroyed in the explosion.

"I'm trying to stay calm about the whole situation. We're in an area where all the windows shattered and the garage doors are damaged. We all suffered the same damage on that block. Nobody's house was totally floored, or totally destroyed. We should be allowed to get in there and try and fix some of the damage to the house," he said.

Jackie Arias said she's worried about the toll it's taking on the town's children.

"Our son has to go to school on Monday, and it's like, you want your life to come back together. Especially for the kids, it's so important to keep them on schedule. Because if you don't, they know something's wrong in their world," she said.

Classes will resume on Monday and many parents said they have no idea how the school bus routes will be affected in the area.

NBC 5's Jeff Smith contributed to this report.

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