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Plant explosion in West reminds Merkel community of 1967 fertilizer truck explosion

By Jenna Rogers, Reporter, jrogers@ktxs.com
Published On: Apr 19 2013 04:52:29 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 20 2013 08:25:44 PM CDT
MERKEL, Texas -

The fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West is bringing back memories for the community of Merkel.

More than 40 years ago, on May 3, 1967, the small town was devastated when a truck carrying fertilizer and dynamite exploded on Interstate 20 just east of the city.

"I guess the day started off as normal," said former Merkel Fire Chief Waymon Adcock.

However, he and his partner were soon called to respond to a truck fire. When they arrived, they were told the truck was not only carrying fertilizer – it was also carrying dynamite.

"I said we better leave this thing. So we turned to leave and just as we got back to the truck, it exploded," said Adcock.

The explosion crushed his car.

"It kind of clumped it down over me. Pulled the top down and the doors in," he said.

The accident rocked the community of Merkel.

"Tore it all to pieces," said Adcock. "All the windows in town were knocked in."

Everyone in the small town either remembers the day, or has heard about it from family and friends.

"It all blew up. Rattled everything. Took out a bunch of windows and left a big hole right in the middle of the interstate," said Roger Burfiend, who also had the windows and sheet rock at his home blown apart during the blast.

"The explosion was so extensive that the damage couldn't be corrected," said Larry Gill, director of the Merkel Historical Museum.

Gill moved to the town six years after the explosion. He said most of the older homes have cracks down the walls from that day.

Adcock said the recent explosion in the town of West takes him back to that day. He understands the urgency those firefighters felt.

"You don't think about it until you do it, and you just hope everything is alright," said Adcock.

"I don't know if it proves we Americans are brave or silly," he said, laughing.

Even though the explosion changed his life forever, Adcock said he wouldn't have wanted to do anything else in life.

"It's something that you can't explain... but you still want to be a fireman."

Adcock served as Merkel Fire Chief for 48 years.

It was a 1954 Ford Fire truck that was destroyed that day in 1967. It was replaced by a 1967 Chevy Fire Truck. That truck was dedicated to the Morrow Volunteer Fire Department Thursday afternoon.

Four past Merkel members, including Chief Waymon Adcock , Chief Billy Lucas, Jerry Horton and Johnny Whisenhunt, who were on the fire that destroyed the truck this one replaced, were at the ceremony.