West residents clean out, prepare to rebuild



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Posted on April 28, 2013 at 5:50 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 6 at 8:04 PM

WEST, Texas — On Sunday, for the second day in a row, West residents from Zone 3 were temporally allowed back into their homes to gather valuables and salvage what they could in the wake of the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion.

For Ed Zahirniak, it was an afternoon filled with sadness, but also determination.

He grew up in a house backing up to the fertilizer plant. That residence and his daughter's home — which also backed up to the plant — are a total loss.

"It just looks like a war zone," he said.

But his family is vowing to rebuild. They recovered personal belongings this weekend, like his grandson's tennis shoe collection that was stored away in a closet.

It is small finds like that which are making a difference for the 180 families in the hardest hit area.

"It hasn't really hit yet... I guess it would've," said another woman.

Mayor Tommy Muska said only "four or five homes" in Zone 3, or Zone 'C,' are actually livable.

He said for at least the next five or six months, it was highly unlikely anyone would be permitted to stay overnight. Utilities are turned off, roads need to be rebuilt, and he fears a huge strain on his local budget.

"We've lost nearly $24 million in property value in just this area alone," he said.

Another town hall meeting was held on Sunday afternoon. About 200 people showed up to discuss the upcoming week, and where to go for insurance or legal advice.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms continued to process the explosion site on Sunday. There is still no clear cause as to what caused the initial plant fire a week-and-a-half ago.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com