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No room for fallen West firefighters on monument at state Capitol

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The names of the first responders killed in the West fertilizer plant explosion will not be etched into a monument at the state Capitol, even though it was built to honor volunteer fire fighters who have lost their lives.

There are almost 140 names etched into the monument for volunteer fire fighters. Unfortunately more must be added but finding the space to do that will require an expensive building campaign.

The monument to fallen volunteer firefighters has stood on the Texas Capitol grounds since 1896. The bronze statue of a fireman holding a child in one hand and a lantern in the other is the second oldest monument here.

Each legislative session, names were added to the gray stone until there was no more space available. New names are cut into a temporary stone slab, and unless something changes that is where the names will be place for the responders who died last month in the West fertilizer plant explosion.

"There is a sense of urgency because we don't have any room. We put on five this year and we've got 19 to put on in 2015," Bastrop Fire Chief Henry Perry said.

Perry is a board member of the State Firemen's and Fire Marshal's Association. The organization is raising money to expand the Capitol memorial.

The plan involves building a circular stone wall around the site to hold new names. About $125,000 has to be raised before work can begin.

"It's a way for the names to be memorialized for eternity," Perry said.

The idea of improving the memorial is supported by people like Ivey Walker Allen. She was at the Capitol Wednesday to watch state House members honor her son and his classmates for academic excellence.

"I believe it is needed because everyone needs to have their place in history because they will go down in history of giving up the ultimate which would be their lives to help save us from a tragic ending," said Allen.

One name from the West explosion may not be included when the expansion is completed. Capt. Kenny" Lucky" Harris worked for the Dallas Fire Department but lived in West and responded to the fire. But by law only the names of volunteer firemen can be placed on the monument. The association is looking for a way to get Harris' name included before the addition is completed which is targeted for 2015.

The volunteer firemen's is the second oldest moment on the Capitol grounds. The oldest is one dedicated to the Alamo heroes. Donations to help pay for the expansion can be made to the State Firemen's and Fire Marshal's Association.

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