CHARLESTON, Tenn. — In a strange twist of fate, fire heavily damaged a volunteer fire department in Tipton County.
On the night of January 8th, people nearby were calling Tipton County 9-1-1 dispatchers, telling them the Charleston Volunteer Fire Department was burning.
All 15 of the department’s volunteers responded to the scene, prepared to do what they’re trained to do: fight fires.
“I said, ‘Are you kidding me,’ when it come across the radio. ‘Are you kidding me? The fire station?’ Mike Wallace, treasurer for the Charleston Volunteer Fire Department, said.
After the initial shock, Wallace, also a volunteer firefighter, said his instincts kicked in. He rushed to the Charleston Volunteer Fire Department on Highway 179 in Tipton County, and found a disaster in the making.
“You could see the big glow inside the bay and there was smoke rolling out of the building,” he said.
The battery on the department’s fire and rescue van shorted out, starting a fire that consumed the van and all the medical equipment inside.
Wallace and other volunteers got the big trucks out of harm’s way and went to work.
“I jumped in the tanker and a couple of firemen were putting their suits on,” Wallace said.
They were able to put out the van fire and move the vehicle out of the building before the fire reached the van’s gas tank.
Besides the van, there was a lot of equipment inside the station that was damaged or destroyed.
“We lost six fire helmets inside the station, fire coats, fire boots, hazmat suits…they’re about $1,200 a suit,” Wallace said.
He said the department has insurance, but most of the firefighting and medical equipment was bought by the volunteers through various fundraising activities.
The fire is especially hard on new volunteer Angela Hartsfield. She completed her Emergency Medical Responder training a week ago, on the night of the fire, and would have been assigned to the rescue van.
She said she’s determined more than ever to be a volunteer, because the desire to serve runs deep in her family.
“My dad did it. My uncle did it. We’re all just in the community and it’s a way that I wanted to help the community,” she said.
The department serves a five-mile radius from the station on Highway 179.
Wallace said the tanker and pumpers have been cleaned of smoke damage and volunteers will be loading them with hoses donated by other Tipton County fire departments. He also said the trucks will be back in service this week, but there won’t be an emergency medical response until the rescue van is replaced.