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Baptists rush to help after Truth or Consequences blasts

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (BP)–First Baptist Church, Truth or Consequences, N.M., wasted no time offering its assistance after its community was rocked by massive explosions the evening of Jan. 7 that damaged the church’s facilities.

Soon after a propane tank exploded at a gas company in the southwestern New Mexico community of about 6,500 people, First Baptist was one of four locations opened as a shelter, according to a spokesman for the church who asked not to be identified.

Only minutes after church members had left the church after Sunday evening activities, an unattended pickup truck ran into a tank at Cortez Gas Co., causing an explosion. Within minutes after the first explosion, which happened at about 7:30, a volunteer firefighter and member of the church called his pastor, Shon Wagner, at home, asking Wagner if evacuees from the area could be taken to the church.

Wagner arrived at the church about three minutes later and was quickly joined by seven or eight evacuees and seven or eight church members who came to help in any way they could.

Several hundred people were forced to leave the area surrounding the accident scene after the initial blast and a second, larger explosion 20 minutes later that sent a fireball into the sky about 300 feet.

The explosions shattered windows 12-15 blocks away, and early news reports were that five homes were burned.

Half an hour after the church was opened as a shelter, it too was evacuated when the quarantined area was extended from a five- to a 15-block radius, the spokesman said. Church members who had come to the church relocated the evacuees, some to their own homes and some to the New Mexico Veterans Center.

The spokesman emphasized that members of the entire community “pitched in to help each other out” after the explosions. He himself took a girl who had fallen to the hospital and helped jump-start a vehicle.

The next morning, pastors in the community, including Wagner, had been called by the police department to the Sierra Vista Hospital in Truth or Consequences to help counsel people affected by the tragedy.

First Baptist facilities sustained some damage from the explosions, the source said. Cracks in the stucco were enlarged and new ones were created.

The hospital reported that it had treated 11 people, none for life-threatening injuries and most for smoke inhalation and asthma. No deaths were reported.

“It could have been worse than it was,” said the spokesman, who said he was “praising God.”

The day after the blasts, the church was made a collection point for food, clothing, blankets and bedding for the displaced families, the spokesman said, and the church was operating a nursery for children of firefighters cleaning up after the tragedy.

Shortly before the Baptist New Mexican’s press time Jan. 8, the spokesman said the church was awaiting word on other ways it could help.

“People are going to be seeking answers,” the spokesman said, “and we will be here to minister.”

An account has been set up at Bank of the Southwest in Truth or Consequences to help displaced families with expenses.

    About the Author

  • John Loudat