LAMPASAS (20 April 2013)--Even though it is miles away from the small town of West, residents might have heard the sounds of giving as it kicked off Thursday in front of the Walmart in Lampasas.
The Kempner Volunteer Fire Department jumped into action Thursday and raised over $2,500 within three hours.
These dedicated men and women were out in full force again Friday and Saturday.
"It's a tragedy that it happened period, but to hear that it happened in a volunteer area and volunteer firefighters died, it really brings it back to home," said Bianna Mello, Kempner firefighter.
"This job is a lot of fun, but also can be very dangerous." Bianna says that she began volunteering because helping others runs in the family.
Her brother and sister-in-law are firefighters and a second brother works as a medic.
"It gets a little scary sometimes, but at the same time when the adrenaline is going its just, you know, that is what you signed up for," said Brianna.
"That's why you are in this so that you do it and other people don't have to and so you can protect your community."
As customers entered the store to shop for themselves, they exited with goods for others in need, including emergency responders from West.
"We consider ourselves a long family in the fire service," said Nathan Huhn, Kempner firefighter.
"We have our own family here also and whenever our family gets hurt we do what we can to help them."
Huhn is a sergeant in the Army and spends his down time fighting fires for the community of Kempner.
"I do two jobs and I do them to the best ability that I can. Basically I do this, because it makes me glad to be an American.
Firefighters throughout Lampasas County donated their time holding boots to be filled with money and taking donated goods from vehicles and carts.
The town of Kempner has cement and asphalt plants and firefighters say they utilize those facilities for extensive training. "Incidents like the one at the fertilizer plant are rare but when they do happen, you need to be trained and proficient," said Huhn.
The firefighters perform various scenarios. They analyze where they would place their people if chemicals were present. Huhn mentioned the rule of thumb his fire captain taught him.
"It it's a hazardous material scene, we use what's called a thumb rule," said Hahn. "If you can cover up the scene with your thumb, you are far enough away."
The Kempner firefighters are required to carry a guidebook on how to handle hazardous materials. It covers everything from gasoline to nuclear waste. The town of Lampasas also has a small hazardous response team.
"When we fight fires, we always enter a structure as a team," said Brianna. "You never go by yourself. You always have at least one partner with you."
Monday morning, all donated items will be loaded up on a trailer and taken to West. Contents of the trailer will be given to the Red Cross who will then disperse it among the families.
"Even with the people who cannot donate, I hope the city of West understands that they will still get the thoughts and prayers coming their way also," said Hahn.