Quick response saves Arbala fire station

But fire will be costly for one of county’s busiest VFDs

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Jan 7, 2008 - Arbala Volunteer Fire Station caught on fire Saturday evening, causing significant damage to the truck bay and their 2-year-old tanker, and the rest of the building was smoke damaged.

Staff Photo by Faith Huffman

The interior of the volunteer fire station at Arbala was left charred after a fire apparently broke out in one of the department’s trucks Saturday. Quick response by Hopkins County, Miler Grove, Brinker and Cumby fire departments helped limit damage, but repairs will still be costly.

Authorities were alerted to the fire at 4:47 p.m. by a man passing by, who reported seeing smoke pouring out of the bay doors at the FM 1567 location. 

Hopkins County, Miller Grove and Brinker firefighters were dispatched to the location.  Cumby firefighters also responded with water support after Arbala volunteers immediately went to the station.

Several Arbala firefighters said they had a sick feeling having to stand outside the station, with all of their gear and equipment inside, and not being able to do anything until help arrived, but did everything they could once it got there.

Hopkins County Fire Department arrived and were met with heavy smoke as firemen entered. They noticed the blaze to be toward the rear and top of the tanker truck, and were able to quickly put the fire out, containing it to the bay area. 

�If it wasn�t for station 20 [Hopkins County Fire Department], it would have been a lot worse,� AVFD Fire Chief Autry Darden said Sunday. "Thankfully, they were [on duty] when the call came in. If this had happened at 10:15 at night or even 5-10 minutes after 10, when County Fire goes out of service, it would have been easily a good 15-20 minutes or longer for any of the [volunteer fire departments] to get here."

As far as firefighters can tell so far, the tank and hose bed of the tanker were damaged along with 1,200 feet of 4-inch hose and 400 feet of 3-inch hose. Handles, lights and other items on the truck were also melted. The engine and another truck were "smoked up” but appeared to be OK. However, the department won’t know for sure until all hoses and equipment are tested.

The roof and insulation in the bay were damaged. The rest of the station, including the day room and kitchen area and living quarters, sustained smoke damage. AVFD members are in the process of having gear and other equipment, such as radios and computers, cleaned and tested.

�The county fire guys did an excellent job with their response,� Hopkins County Fire Chief Carl Nix said.

Investigators have narrowed the area of origin of the fire down to the left center portion of the tanker engine, but have yet to determine the exact cause, which would give a better idea whether the fire was a manufacturing or mechanical problem or due to some other factor. 

While the fire department does have insurance, they will have to come up with their portion of the liability on both the tanker and station, in addition to anything the insurance company doesn’t cover to repair the 4-year-old station, the 2-year-old truck and anything else.

The loss of the tanker truck will be felt by the county, as AVFD’s was the only tanker on the southwest portion of the county. Arbalas is tied with Pickton-Pine Forest as third busiest rural fire department, based on call volume.  Since Jan. 1, 2007, the department has received 165 calls for service, including fires, motor vehicle crashes and medical calls.

Arbala VFD isn't out of commission, however. North Hopkins Volunteer Fire Department has loaned AVFD an attack truck, and Saltillo has offered the use of hoses. 

Any other departments or individuals that want to donate or loan equipment or money may do so by contacting AVFD Chief Autry Darden at 903-348-6719, or members J.W. Ragan at 903-348-8164 or Dida Darden at 903-348-6712.

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