AFD crew recalls responding to Lenwood Drive explosion

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — One month after an explosion in Southwest Amarillo, the fire crew who initially responded shared their experiences.

AFD was called to an explosion at a home on the 3600 block of Lenwood Drive around 4 p.m. on July 26, 2021.

The crew said they were not surprised when they got the call.

“We get calls for pretty random things most of the time. I mean, we run to all different types of calls and stuff,” Bailey Vincent, an AFD firefighter and paramedic, said. “So, just an explosion or rupture investigation, you know, we’re thinking maybe a propane tank in the backyard, something like that. You know, not something to the magnitude that it actually turned out to be.”

Another member of the crew said they did not expect what they found, given the nature of the call.

“On the way over there, a lot of times you’re thinking that it’s a false call, especially the time of day it happened. It was around approximately, four o’clock in the afternoon,” AFD Station 9 Capt. Casey Woolsey said. “And when there is an actual explosion, we usually get multiple calls. We only received one call. So, we thought it might be possibly a false call initially.”

As soon as they got to the scene, they said there were red flags.

“We purposely turned our sirens off early, before we got to the house just in case something was going on,” Vincent said. “All we did was pull up out front, and he had already came out front to meet us. That was kind of an interesting part, maybe trying to hide something. He was pretty sweaty, you could tell he was worked up, something was going on…”

Brandon Steward, a probationary firefighter at AFD, also noted the suspect meeting them outside, saying, “…he came out to us, which also threw out some red flags, maybe thinking he didn’t want us to see what was in the house, stuff like that. Our acting officer at the time was actually the one that wanted to go more into it.”

EMT Joey Clement said as he walked up, three other crew members had already made contact with the suspect.

“I just kind of started making sure I was trying to assess the whole scene and look everywhere I needed to, and just kind of noticed that he was being a little bit anxious as I was walking up,” Clement said. “And he was kind of talking to all three of the guys and just kind of really answering a lot of questions before they were really asked. And just, he was sweating really bad. And just you could tell something was going on with him.”

The crew said the suspect’s behavior made them want to look further.

“He was just very skittish and just saying some things that triggered us to think there was more going on than there actually was. He was sweaty, just kind of all over the place,” said Steward.

“Something just wasn’t adding up right off the bat, and that’s when our officer at the time, wanted to start digging a little deeper,” Vincent said.

They made calls to dispatch and citizens to learn more. Then, they drove around the back of the house and into the alley.

APD’s Cpl. Jeb Hilton said AFD determined there was an explosion in the backyard, where explosive materials were later found. They were also found inside the home and in the alley.

“And we saw two big craters in his backyard that, we knew like that was contained a little bit better, a little bit in a different environment, it could have been a whole lot worse,” Clement said. “Safety was definitely an issue. But at that point, we just needed to get PD there as soon as we can let them start investigating.”

The AFD crew detained the suspect, Erfan Salmanzadeh, 32, until Amarillo Police arrived. He was arrested at the scene.

APD’s bomb team came quickly and began evacuations. APD said 14 homes were evacuated. APD also called in the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, who came to help.

The on-site investigation lasted through July 29, nearly four days after the explosion. Traffic remained closed until that point.

“I felt relieved that we were able to—that we stuck through it enough to actually take the time and actually find out that there was bombs and stuff,” Steward said. “Just relieved that it didn’t turn out to be anything else, because what they did find over the whole entire couple of days that they did it. I mean, it could have been very bad at multiple locations.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District of Texas announced on July 30 that Salmanzadeh was federally charged with one count of possession of a destructive device. He was charged by the state with possession of components of explosives.

If convicted of the federal offense, the U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District of Texas said Salmanzadeh faces up to 10 years in prison.

At this time, the court records detailing what was found at the scene remain sealed.

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