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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Fire Police Captain Brian Hill was driving by the station at 9 P.M. and saw smoke and flames coming from the roof of the structure. He radioed Lycoming County Control, "Station 12 is on fire, dispatch units to the scene, flames coming from the roof." The first alarm included Clinton Township (Station 12) and Montgomery Borough (Station 13). Responding on the second alarm were Muncy Borough (Station 30), Washington Township (Station 21), Duboistown Borough (Station 8) and South Williamsport (Stations 9, 10 and 11).

Station 12 Lieutenant Todd Winder found the roof heavily involved. He immediately requested a third alarm and special-called Ladder 11 from South Williamsport. Another firefighter had already pulled all of the apparatus out of the building.

Winder pulled Tanker 12 in front of the building and with the help of other firefighters put the deck gun in operation on the fire venting from the roof. Crews stretched three lines to the interior and into the attic. Engine 1-12 reverse-laid a five-inch supply line 1,300 feet to supply Tanker 12. Clinton Township Second Assistant Chief Jeff Houseknecht (2-12) arrived at 9:04 and assumed command.

The fire damaged a social room, kitchen and bathroom. Bays were unusable until power was restored two days later. Apparatus were temporarily housed at a car dealership across the street. The fire, which caused $164,000 in damage, was blamed on an electrical problem.

Other Fire Station Disasters

Jan. 1, 1995: Jefferson City, MO Fire caused $50,000 in damage to Fire Station 4. While the on-duty crew was out on a call, the fire started in the kitchen, spread and gutted the station.

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Photo by David S. Berger
A pre-dawn explosion and fire destroyed the Silver Lake, WI, Fire Department's station and most of its apparatus on Sept. 3, 1997.

 


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Photo by David S. Berger
Units from nearly a dozen Wisconsin and Illinois departments were dispatched to the blaze.

 

June 2, 1995: Falmouth, MA A 1 A.M. fire that originated in the electrical system of an engine destroyed the apparatus and sent five firefighters to the hospital. One firefighter was trapped on the second floor of the station and had to be rescued via an aerial ladder. Another engine was able to be removed from the station and with mutual aid the fire was brought under control.

July 3, 1996: Hyder, AK A $1 million fire in the municipal building destroyed the structure and the community's only fire truck. The 12-year-old, two-story building also contained a post office, library, community center and a U.S. Forest Service office. Mutual aid was received from Stewart, British Columbia, to extinguish the fire that burned out of control for 3 1/2 hours.

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Photo by Lee D. Hitchcock
Fire isn't the only enemy of firehouses. A tornado damaged a Surf City, NC, fire station in October 1996. The 30-year-old, single-story building is located about 500 feet from the Atlantic Ocean.

July 4, 1996: Sardinia, OH An early-morning arson fire destroyed a fire station and seven pieces of apparatus. The fire in the three-year-old metal building burned out of control for two hours before being brought under control by mutual aid companies.

Feb. 2, 1997: Imler, PA The ambulance garage and social hall of the Imler Area Volunteer Fire Company were destroyed in a $200,000 fire that started in a fluorescent light fixture. Firefighters were able to drive two ambulances out of the structure.

Feb. 8, 1997: Sheldon, NY An electrical fire that started in the cab of a pumper heavily damaged the apparatus and caused moderate damage to a 5,000-gallon pumper/tanker and the station. The Strykersville and Harris Corners volunteer fire departments extinguished the fire. A pumper was loaned to Sheldon from the Warsaw Volunteer Fire Department so that the department could continue providing fire protection. Several other departments also loaned equipment to the department. Over $50,000 in damage was done to the apparatus and the station.

Feb. 16, 1997: Imler, PA The second fire in two weeks destroyed the 60-by-30-foot fire station, three fire trucks and an ambulance. Firefighter Charles Wyles was able to drive one ambulance out of the station but firefighters were unable to save any other apparatus.

March 1, 1997: Alexander, AR A tornado destroyed a fire station and two pumpers in the Saline County Fire District. The cost to repair the district's 1961 American LaFrance pumper and the 1969 Ford Boardman pumper exceeded the value of the apparatus.