Arbala Volunteer Fire Department recently purchased a 1987 Pierce rescue pumper from Mystic, Conn., to replace their 2-year-old tanker, one of two trucks destroyed in the Jan. 5 blaze which decimated the bays and damaged the rest of the station. Land’s End Volunteer Fire Department also donated a 1983 brush truck last month to help the department out. Pictured with both trucks are AVFD members Jared Smith, J.W. Ragan, Dida Darden and Chief Autry Darden.
Staff Photo By Patti Sells

Arbala VFD recovering from January fire

Pumper truck purchased; station expected to reopen by July

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram Staff

June 22, 2008 - The Arbala Volunteer Fire Department's members had one of their worst nightmares come to life in January, seeing smoke pouring out of their new station and waiting helplessly outside for other departments to arrive to extinguish the blaze inside their station.

Several AVFD members at the time noted the sick feeling, knowing all their gear and equipment were inside and not being able to do anything until help arrived. All they could do was wait at the nearest hydrant, then leap into action with borrowed equipment when help did arrive a few minutes later, although the wait felt interminable.

The loss was devastating. The tank and hose bed of the tanker truck were damaged. About 1,200 feet of 4-inch hose and 400 feet of 3-inch hoses, handles, lights and other items on the truck were melted. The fire engine and another truck were "smoked up." The roof and insulation in the bay were charred. The rest of the station, including the day room, kitchen area and living quarters, were damaged from smoke.

But not even a devastating fire could keep the department out of service for long; they were taking calls within a matter of days after the blaze.

That weekend, North Hopkins Volunteer Fire Department loaned AVFD it's attack truck to assist, and other local departments offered equipment and gear as well. All salvageable items were taken just around the corner to the old fire station, a much smaller metal shed located between Arbala Methodist Church and Arbala Community Center.

Arbala firefighters are also using a 1983 Dodge 1-ton brush truck, donated last month by Land's End Volunteer Fire Department of Lake Fork. LEVFD Chief T.J. Henshaw and firefighters Lloyd and Ilene Holcomb presented the truck to AVFD Chief Autry Darden and firefighter J.W. Ragan May 14.

"Volunteers at Land's End VFD have been blessed with tremendous support from their community and from neighboring fire departments in Wood County who donated vehicles to help them get started," Henshaw noted after handing over the keys. "They can identify with the hardship to a community when their local volunteer fire department is struck with tragedy, as Arbala VFD suffered."

Although insurance and truck manufacturers have yet to determine the cause of the blaze, AVFD recently received enough insurance money to help clean up the inside of the station, pay for one truck and pay off off the note on the engine.

AVFD used their funding to purchase "Old Mystic," a 1987 Pierce rescue pumper from the fire department in Mystic, Conn. It's already being used, despite the fact that the rescue pumper isn't completely outfitted. In the last few weeks, AVFD firefighters used the rescue pumper at two major 18-wheeler crashes just west of Sulphur Springs on Interstate 30, as well as a few other calls.

Quite a bit of elbow grease has already gone toward repairing the damage to the interior of the station, but there's still a bit of electrical work yet to be done. Weather, schedules and calls permitting, Darden says, AVFD hopes to have things up and running again at the "new station" by the end of the month.

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