The firefighters of Ider, Alabama suffered a blaze at their own fire station Monday morning that destroyed the structure and the fire engine inside.
"I still can't really believe it," said Assistant Fire Chief Ronnie Cloud.
The department had just responded to a meth lab fire at a mobile home at 10 a.m. Once that fire was knocked down, a firefighter returned one of the department's two engines to the station, parked it and turned it off. He then picked up some bottled water for his fellow firefighters and returned to the meth lab scene in his personal vehicle.
Meanwhile, a fire started under the hood of the parked '84 Ford pumper. A passerby reported smoke at the station and a fire call went out at 10:45 a.m.
"The next thing you know they were calling us saying your fire hall is on fire," Cloud said. "It was something... especially knowing you couldn't leave."
Nine firefighters stayed at the meth lab scene and about five responded to the fire station, along with mutual aid from four other neighboring departments.
It was a trying day for the Ider firefighters as they worked both emergencies. Cloud said the department has dealt with several meth lab fires in the past, but this time they had to go inside the burning structure to check on a report of a person inside. They found the structure empty, but two firefighters, Chief Steve Hannah and Firefighter T.J. Cloud, were treated and released from the hospital after inhaling fumes at the scene.
Cloud said they do not know what caused the engine fire at the station. The vehicle and all the equipment on it, including 1400 feet of hose, were destroyed, and the fire station and other contents, including eight sets of bunker gear, also appear to be damaged beyond repair.
Cloud said the department is still taking inventory to determine exactly what equipment was lost, and they are still checking to see what will be covered by insurance. "We just don't know," Cloud said.
The fire station has been deemed unsafe and a structural engineer will determine whether it can be salvaged. Cloud said the building's block walls got hot during the fire and now just crumble. "It's pretty much toast," he said.
Despite their losses, Cloud said the department is still fully operational. They are responding with their other good engine and a smaller one that they had previously put up for sale. They are storing the vehicles at an out of business tire center.
The Ider Fire Department has 28 volunteers and covers a rural area of roughly 100 square miles. It is located in the northeast corner of Alabama in DeKalb County, about 70 miles east of Huntsville.
Cloud said that anyone who wishes to assist the fire department can contact the Ider town hall at (256) 657-4184. Chief Steve Hannah can be reached at his home, (256)632-3705.