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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At this time, Engine 3's booster tank was about empty and two firefighters started hand-laying a 2 1/2-inch line to a hydrant 300 yards away. Morrilton Engine 4 arrived at 3:24 A.M. with a three-man crew and laid 600 feet of four-inch supply line from another hydrant. Firefighters pulled a 1 1/2-inch pre-connect from this engine and helped knock down the fire. Morrilton's 85-foot Snorkel with a 1,250-gpm pump was staged at the scene.

The fire was declared under control at 3:35. At that point, Payne asked the Morrilton crews to continue mopup operations as the Oppelo volunteers were exhausted.

After making the initial attack, Payne was able to assume his command position. It quickly became evident that this was an arson fire to cover up a burglary. Firefighters reported that the desk drawers were found open, the back door was open and compartment doors on the apparatus were open. On their arrival, Arkansas State Police Sergeant Dewayne Luter and Deputy Sheriff Jackie Cupp of the Conway County Sheriff's Department asked that nothing be moved until daylight.

Payne had originally thought it would take 24 to 48 hours to get apparatus back in service but the department had some apparatus back in service by 11:30 and answered its first EMS call at this time. Morrilton continued to be dispatched on fire calls until 2:30 P.M. on Dec. 16.

The 50-by-100-foot metal structure containing City Hall, all offices and the fire station were destroyed. The damage estimate for the building was $180,000. Apparatus destroyed included a 1985 brush truck, a 1975 tanker and a 1974 attack/service truck. Damaged but able to be refurbished were Engine 3 (a 1974 pumper) and Engine 4 (a 1970 pumper). Bunker gear, hose and miscellaneous equipment were also destroyed. Damage to the apparatus was estimated at $74,000 and $66,000 to equipment.

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Photo by Frank Smith
A pre-dawn fire caused more than $1 million in damage to the National City, IL, Village Hall, fire and police station.

The National City, IL, Village Hall, police and fire station were destroyed by fire on March 22, 1996, at 4:30 A.M. Damage was estimated at over $1 million. Assistant Police Chief Donald Hubert arrived first and stated, "We tried to get in and get the fire trucks out but the smoke was too much for us." Fire Chief Charles Schreiber and other firefighters arrived within minutes of the alarm but it was too late to get any apparatus out of the building. Schreiber immediately requested mutual aid from the Brooklyn, East St. Louis, Fairmont City and Caseyville fire departments.

Unable to save the structure, firefighters turned their efforts to a vacant warehouse across the street where embers had ignited the roof. This building was saved. The 60-by-120-foot Village Hall was over 70 years old and originally used as a mule barn. Apparatus destroyed included a 1986 E-One pumper with a 50-foot TeleSqurt, a 1968 American LaFrance pumper, a 1960 American LaFrance pumper and a 1956 Ford pumper.

The East St. Louis and Fairmont City fire departments loaned apparatus and equipment to National City so fire protection could be provided until other apparatus could be purchased. Investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Illinois State Fire Marshal's office and National City police and fire departments determined that the fire was electrical in nature. The department has since purchased a 1980 Grumman pumper and a 1971 Ward LaFrance pumper with a 50-foot TeleSqurt to replace the destroyed apparatus.

On Jan. 17, 1997, Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company 1, in Montgomery, PA, was faced with fighting a fire in its own fire station. The one big difference in this fire as compared to the others in this article is that these volunteers were able to use their own apparatus to fight the fire.

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Photo by Patty Miller
An electrical fire caused $164,000 in damage to the station used by Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company 1, in Montgomery, PA.

A private organization was using the social hall and guests heard a "popping" noise over the main entrance but believed that a light had burned out at 7:20 P.M. As people were preparing to leave at 8:58, they heard a crackling noise in the ceiling and discovered the building was on fire.