Firehouse Fires

Jay K. Bradish describes an ironic occurrence that happened to several firehouses around the country and how members coped.


I'm devastated we're all devastated by this. In one incident, we've lost all of our emergency response apparatus and most of our building. While it's horrible, we are extremely fortunate that no one was injured," Chief Tim Butters of the Burke, VA, Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department said a few...


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On Dec. 29, 1996, the Lewisville-Franklin Township, IN, Volunteer Fire Department lost its station and apparatus in an arson fire. At 12:33 A.M., Fire Chief Warren Jones and the department's 17 other volunteer firefighters were awakened by their pager tones and dispatched to a fire at their fire station.

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Photo by Bradley Jones
A fire that was deliberately set destroyed the fire station and apparatus used by the Lewisville-Franklin Township, IN, Volunteer Fire Department.

 


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Photo by Bradley Jones
To start a fire in the Lewisville, IN, firehouse, an arsonist poured a flammable solution on the floor in the office area and around the fire trucks in the apparatus bay. The fire destroyed the cement-block station built in 1957.

 

As Jones left his home a block from the station, he could see the orange glow in the sky. When he and two other volunteers arrived, the fire was already too intense to try to make entry into the station. Mutual aid from Straughn, Dunrieth and Spiceland had already been dispatched but the 10-minute wait "seemed like forever," Jones recalled.

The first mutual aid units from Straughn, five miles away, arrived at 12:43 and accomplished knockdown within 20 minutes. An Indiana state fire marshal arrived on scene at 2:10 and notified Jones at 8 A.M. that it was an arson fire. The arsonist had poured a flammable solution on the floor in the office area and around the fire trucks in the apparatus bay.

The fire destroyed the 60-by-80-foot cement-block station built in 1957. Apparatus in the station included a 1982 grass rig, a 1978 emergency van, a 1964 pumper, a 1972 pumper and a 1983 tanker. Damage was estimated at $500,000.

By noon, volunteer and career departments had heard the news and were calling to offer help to get the department back in service. The Raleigh-Mays Volunteer Fire Department loaned a pumper and a tanker to Lewisville. Other departments loaned a dump tank, bunker gear, hose, nozzles and other equipment. The apparatus is stored in the town's storage barn until a new station is built. Lewisville later purchased a 1968 mini-pumper.

The department also has purchased a 1997 Ford F-350 to replace the grass rig and a 1992 International chassis to remount the 1,850-gallon tank on its burned tanker. A grant for $260,000 was received from the Department of Commerce for a new fire station. Also, a grant from the Build Indiana Fund for $170,000 was received for the purchase of a new pumper-tanker.

On Dec. 15, 1996, members of the Oppelo, AR, Volunteer Fire Department were dispatched at 3:14 A.M. to a fire at their own fire station. Conway County Deputy Sheriff Tim Bridgeman (also a Morrilton volunteer fireman) was on routine patrol when he heard an explosion and saw the fire at City Hall and the fire station. He immediately radioed the alarm in and the Oppelo volunteers were dispatched: "Attention, all Oppelo Fire Department personnel, your station is on fire. Repeat, your station is on fire." Mutual aid from the Morrilton Volunteer Fire Department was also dispatched at that time.

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Photo by Dennis Massingill/Petit Jean Country Headlight
The Oppelo, AR, Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched at 3:14 A.M. to a fire in its station and City Hall. It was determined the fire was an arson to cover up a burglary.

As Assistant Chief John Payne and his son Travis, a firefighter, were arriving at the station, Payne radioed, "We have flames showing." Captain Greg Andrews and Firefighter Danny Coffman tried to enter the building through a door on the north side of the station but were driven back by heavy black smoke that was within two feet of the floor. Payne tried entry next and could see that the fire had extended into Bays 3 and 4 from City Hall. Brush Truck 1 was fully engulfed and Tanker 2's engine compartment was on fire.

To ventilate the truck bay, Payne used his personal truck to push the overhead door in on Bay 1. A chain was then hooked onto the door and Payne pulled the overhead door out of the station. This accomplished ventilation as the smoke started to lift but the fire also intensified. Firefighter Danny Coffman drove Engine 3 out of the station.

Payne and his son donned self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) from Engine 3 and advanced a 1 3/4-inch pre-connect into the station. As they pushed the fire back into City Hall, Travis Payne left the hoseline and drove Truck 5 through the still-closed overhead door.