by Doug Stanglin and Gary Strauss USA TODAY, USA TODAY

A volunteer paramedic who was among the first on the scene of a fire and massive explosion last month at a West, Texas fertilizer plant was arrested early Friday and charged with possession of a destructive device.

Officials have not said whether the arrest of Bryce Reed is related to the April 17 explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. that killed 14 people, injured around 200 and destroyed hundreds of homes in the vicinity.

The arrest came as Texas law enforcement officials said they had launched a criminal investigation into the massive fertilizer plant explosion.

Reed, 31, made an initial appearance in federal court Friday, but did not enter a plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Frazier said he would not release further details until court documents were unsealed sometime later in the day.

Until now, Investigators have largely treated the explosion as an industrial accident, but the Texas Department of Public Safety said in statement that the agency has now instructed the Texas Rangers and the McLennan County Sheriff's Department to conduct a criminal probe.

"This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered," DPS Director Steven McCraw said.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said residents "must have confidence that this incident has been looked at from every angle and professionally handled - they deserve nothing less."

DPS Director Steve McCraw added that the agency wanted "to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered."

News 92 FM in Houston reported that Reed, who is with the West Emergency Medical Services, was one of the early first responders to the scene of the catastrophe and was assigned to be the incident commander at the scene. News 92 FM said authorities indicated that the explosive device was a pipe bomb.

U.S. Marshals arrested Reed around 2 a.m. and and booked him into McLennan County Jail in Waco, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The newspaper said Reed had spoken to The Dallas Morning News and the Los Angeles Times in the immediate aftermath of the explosion about his experience.

In the interview with the Los Angeles Times on the day after the explosion, Reed said that his best friend, an emergency worker, had also responded to the fire that preceded the blast.

Reed said he was ordered to go just south of the fire to take over as incident commander while his friend stayed at the scene of the blaze and was there when the explosion occurred.

"He was my best friend. He got me help through the crisis in my life. He's my brother," Reed told the Times.

Bryce Reed's wife, Brittany Reed, declined to comment Friday.

"I can't. No comment, no comment no comment right now," she said before hanging up the phone

Although Reed did not identify his friend by name in the article, he was later identified as Cyrus Reed. A photo of the distraught paramedic attending a memorial service for the victims was widely circulated.

WFAA-TV in Dallas reported last week that the state fire marshal had told lawmakers that the on-site investigation into the cause of the explosion would be completed by May 10. The report quoted officials as saying the probe involved 300 interviews based on 160 leads.

Contributing: Associated Press

Copyright 2013USA TODAY

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