WEST (June 18, 2013) -- It would be an understatement to even try and describe the emotions the West Volunteer Fire Department has endured since the West explosion.
Morris Bridges, Cody Dragoo, Joey Pustejovsky, Robert Snokhous and Doug Snokhous, five of the department’s own suited up for their final call on April 17th when the West Fertilizer plant caught fire and exploded.
Their deaths, along with honorary West Volunteer Firemen Buck Uptmor and Jimmy Matus have been difficult for the department to bear.
“It was tough, everyone here was just shocked,” 20-year West VFD member Steve Vanek said.
“It's been a slow process of getting back to normal, but we are starting our climb back up the ladder."
Vanek says the work ethic and tenacity of those who died will be hard to replace.
"Their shoes will be hard to fill, their hearts were in it, and they would push you aside so they could go into a burning building."
The memories of the fallen will certainly be cemented in the history of West. But now, two months after the explosion, the department is finally moving forward.
West VFD has just chosen five men to fill the vacant spots left by Bridges, Dragoo, Pustejovsky, and the Snokhous brothers.
46-year-old West resident Greg Picha is one of the new volunteers.
"It just gives me a sense of pride that I can help this community out in some way," Picha said.
Picha has served with the department previously, but he left in the ‘90’s. The bravery and courage exhibited by those who died inspired him to join again.
He and the other four men will go through training before they officially join the roster.
“These guys here are my brothers, and I just want to be there for them,” Picha said.
“It will be hard to fill the shoes of those who died. I can’t fill them all the way, but I’m going to do the best that I can.”