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Willie Nelson redirects concert proceeds to benefit West, Texas firefighters

Plant Explosion Willi_660.jpg

In this Nov. 7, 2010 file photo, Willie Nelson performs before the start of the NASCAR AAA Texas 500 auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, in Fort Worth, Texas. Nelson is sending out his prayers via Twitter Thursday April 18, 2013 after a deadly fertilizer plant explosion rocked West, Texas, a small community north of Waco near where he grew up.AP

Country music legend Willie Nelson is donating all proceeds from an upcoming concert in Austin, Texas, to the West Volunteer Fire Department, according to a press statement released Thursday.

Nelson , a native Texan, sent out his love and prayers via Twitter after a deadly fertilizer plant explosion rocked West, Texas, a small town north of Waco near his own hometown. 

"I was born and raised here and it was my backyard growing up. This is my community. these friends and neighbors have always been and are still a part of my life," Nelson said.

The statement said proceeds from the artist's previously scheduled performance on April 28 at The Backyard in Austin would now benefit the West Volunteer Fire Department.  Nelson also encouraged fans to donate goods, funds, or even blood donations to the Red Cross for the people of West.

Police initially said between 5 to 15 people were killed, but authorities have since backed away from any total estimate. More than 160 were injured during the massive blast in downtown West -- a community of roughly 2,600 residents about 20 miles north of Waco.

The explosion occurred around 8 p.m. and could be heard as far away as Waxahachie, a town located 45 miles north. It sent flames spiraling high into the evening sky and rained burning embers, shrapnel and debris down on frightened residents. Search and rescue teams worked well into Thursday to find survivors in the rubble. 

When not on the road touring, Nelson has lived in Austin, Texas, since 1971. But he was born and grew up 120 miles north of the state capital, in tiny Abbott, which is about five miles north of West.

"My heart is praying for the community that we call home," Nelson tweeted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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