North Carolina Fire Station Burns

An explosion shook homes on Commonwealth Avenue late Friday, and then sirens blared, so people looked outside to see what was happening.

The fire station had caught fire.

"It's kind of an oxymoron," one neighbor said Saturday.

More irony: The firefighters needed to call another station to extinguish the blaze. The fire had started in one of the squad's two trucks, engulfing the garage and making the station's gear inaccessible.

"It's just kind of a twist of fate thing," said Fire Station No. 8 Capt. Dennis Williams. "It's due to happen to some people."

The fire started in a cab area, where firefighters sit, said Charlotte fire Capt. Rob Brisley. Investigators haven't yet determined what started the blaze, Brisley said.

No one was injured. The fire caused about $500,000 in damage, including one firetruck and equipment that will need to be replaced. The station's other firetruck already had responded to an apartment fire by Saturday afternoon.

"We are still in business," read a sign spray-painted on the boarded-up garage.

The fire started after 11 p.m. Friday at the station at Commonwealth and The Plaza, Williams said. Eight firefighters were in their living quarters when they heard the alarm and saw smoke through a window to the garage.

The automatic garage doors wouldn't open to get to the trucks, Williams said. Firefighters called the station on nearby North Myers Street, then ran out the front door. The explosion neighbors heard came from an oxygen tank used in medical calls.

Saturday morning, when the next shift arrived at the station, they found water-filled boots, charred hats, blackened walls and broken glass. They hung several pairs of coats and pants over a fence to dry. And they started loading one of the department's reserve trucks with hoses, nozzles, medical kits and other equipment.

"We're still here and we're still operating," Williams said. "That's the important thing."

In Williams' 25 years as a Charlotte firefighter, he said, he recalled only one other similar incident, when a Monroe Road station caught fire.

In that 1980s fire, Brisley said, firefighters from The Plaza responded. On Friday night, the Monroe Road station reciprocated.

Look up "irony" in Webster's New World College Dictionary (Fourth Edition) and this is what you'll find: "A combination of circumstances or a result that is the opposite of what is or might be expected ... an irony that the firehouse burned."