As many as 4,000 firefighters may join untold numbers of residents, President Barack Obama, the first lady and other state officials at a public memorial service Thursday honoring the first responders who died in the West Fertilizer Co. plant explosion last week.
Authorities said several main roads near Baylor University will be blocked during the day for the processional and to manage traffic. The memorial service will begin at 2 p.m. Thursday in Baylor’s Ferrell Center, 1900 S. University Parks Drive.
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and Texas Line of Duty Death Task Force are in charge of the program. In addition to the president, speakers for the service include Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Baylor President Ken Starr, as well as leaders for national and state firefighter groups.
LaSalle Avenue will be blocked off between First Street and State Highway 6 from about 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
South University Parks Drive will be closed from Bagby Avenue to Gurley Avenue between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Residents can detour the closures by turning left on Bagby Avenue, traveling down 12th Street and taking a left at Garden Drive.
At 11 a.m., the firefighters will headline a processional of about 300 firetrucks from the old H-E-B distribution plant at 2501 S. University Parks Drive to the Ferrell Center.
Doors to the Ferrell Center will open at 11 a.m. and close at 1:45 p.m. or when the building reaches capacity. Seating is reserved for attending firefighters and families of the first responders who died. Seating for the public will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
Overflow seating for the public will be provided at Baylor’s Julie and Jim Turner Riverfront Athletic Park, 1612 S. University Parks Drive, where the service will be broadcast.
Attendees should prepare for security searches for admittance into the Ferrell Center. Bags, sharp objects, umbrellas, liquids, firearms and signs will not be allowed in the building. Cameras and cellphones are permitted.
Members of the public can park in Lots C and D near the Ferrell Center.
Parking also will be available at Floyd Casey Stadium on N. Valley Mills Drive. Baylor will begin operating shuttle buses at 10 a.m. to bring members of the public to the Ferrell Center.
The ceremony will be livestreamed on the firefighters foundation’s website, www.firehero.org/westtexas.
Baylor also is making plans to broadcast the ceremony in other campus buildings for student viewing, according to an online message from Baylor Law School Associate Dean Leah Jackson.
Jackson advised law students to arrive at the law school before 9 a.m. if they need to access the building to study or prepare for finals, which she said begin this week.
Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton said he could not comment on specific security measures for the event but said the department will have a significant officer presence in and around the Ferrell Center, assisting Baylor’s police department in maintaining safety in and around the facility.