ATASCOCITA, Texas -

When the plant fire and explosion shook the small town of West, Texas, volunteer firefighters jumped into action.

But how prepared are volunteer fire squads when a tragedy like this takes place?

Emergencies can happen in smaller areas or towns, so that's when volunteer firefighters are needed.

Mike Mulligan is the Deputy Fire Chief for the Atascocita Volunteer Fire Department. He explains his team of 75 firefighters is prepared for a wide range of calls.

"We do Hazmat, we do emergency medical services training, they cover anything any career firefighter would cover in their recruit academy," said Mulligan.

Volunteer firefighters, like the ones who responded to the explosion in West, Texas, are men and women who truly love the job to the degree of doing without any pay at all.

Photos: Destruction in West, Texas

However, it's critical they are equipped with the tools and knowledge just like a firefighter in the City of Houston.

"There's absolutely no difference. Our volunteers go through a recruit academy, which is a 6-month-long course, because of the fact they are not available Monday through Friday," said Mulligan.

With all the plants and refineries in the Houston area, some companies, like BP, employ their own external fire department and emergency responds act as backup.

But anyone who suits up everyday ready for a 911 call tries to understand what they may face.

Related: Houston helps West after explosion

"We have identified our target hazards and I'm sure the folks in West, Texas identified that plant as a target hazard, which means it's a special circumstance," said Mulligan. "It has some process or some materials for a fire load that's not normal fire load."

Firefighters said even though they are ready for anything that comes their way, the training never stops.

Photos: Destruction in West, Texas

Published On: Apr 18 2013 10:11:32 AM CDT

See some of the damage caused by a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas.

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