Gwinnett County Firefighters had settled into their bunks and were drifting off to sleep when an SUV traveling on Club Drive in Lawrenceville, veered off the road and plowed into the fire station bunkroom. The crew awoke to screeching tires and a loud crash. They could see headlights shining from the vehicle into the bunkroom and heard the male driver screaming.
The vehicle had clipped a utility pole while skidding through the yard and eventually plowing into the wall of Gwinnett Fire Station #5 located at 3356 Club Drive in Lawrenceville. The impact knocked a portion of the wall off the foundation and caused lockers to come crashing down on firefighters.
The crew immediately rushed outside expecting to find a trapped and injured victim, but surprisingly the driver of the SUV was unharmed. He appeared to be shaken and scared.
The driver, 20-year-old Dan Kairu was attempting to avoid hitting a large dog that was standing in the roadway. According to Lt. Derek Petty, Company Officer Station #5-A, "Kairu was very apologetic." Kairu was cited by Gwinnett County Police for failure to maintain a lane and was released at the scene.
Fire Engineer Johnny Whelchel was hit by falling lockers and was seen at an area hospital for a minor injury. Gwinnett Fire Station #5, built in the early 1970's, is among the oldest fire stations in the county. It is also one of the busiest fire stations in Gwinnett County. The station is home for Engine Company #5 and Rescue #5. The station was built to match the other structures in the area.
County officials are deciding whether to make repairs to the old station or speed up the move to the new Station #5, which is scheduled to open in late July. The new station is located on Old Norcross Road a few miles from the current fire station.
Gwinnett County Fire & Emergency Services is a full-time paid department, which employs over 637 personnel and covers an area approximately 435 square miles with a population of 650.000 people. The department operates 25 fire stations with 25-ALS Engines Companies, 7-Ladder Companies, 16-ALS Rescue Units, a Hazardous Materials Team, Swift Water Rescue Team, Tactical Rescue Team, Critical Incident Stress Management Team (CISM), and an Award winning Honor Guard. The department has its own Fire Training Academy/Fire College, a Supply/Apparatus Resource Management Facility, Fire Prevention Section, and an Arson/Explosives Investigation Section. The department responds to over 60,000 annual requests for services and has an ISO rating of Class-4.