So many firefighters and medics descended on the town to help its all-volunteer force that the public safety department pleaded that no more assistance was needed.
"The firefighters and EMS people are coming from hundreds of miles away to help us," Wilson said. "Right now, we are overflowing with help. "
In 2006, West Fertilizer had a complaint filed against it for a lingering smell of ammonia, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website shows.
Separately, the plant had informed the Environmental Protection Agency that it presented no risk of fire or explosion, according to The Dallas Morning News. It did so in an emergency planning report required of facilities that use toxic or hazardous chemicals.
The plant's report to the EPA said even a worst-case scenario wouldn't be that dire: there would be a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that wouldn't kill or injure anyone, the newspaper reported.
But what happened Wednesday night was much worse.
Tommy Alford, who works in a convenience store about three miles from the plant, said several volunteer firefighters were at the store when they spotted smoke.
Alford said the firefighters headed toward the scene and then between five and 10 minutes later, he heard a huge explosion.
"It was massive; it was intense," Alford said.
'Not the end of the world'
Cheryl Marak, who sits on West's city council, said the blast's impact knocked her to the ground.
"It demolished both the houses there, mine and my mom's and it killed my dog," she said.
Other residents had similar stories.
"It was like a bomb went off," said Barry Murry, who lives about a mile from the plant. "There were emergency vehicles everywhere. It has been overwhelming."
As they waited for daybreak, they sought comfort in each other and in Mayor Muska's words.
"This is not the end of the world," he said. "This is a big ol' cut that we got across our hearts right now."
"But," he added, "we are strong. We will rebuild."