Community unites after blaze destroys fire station

July 18, 2011 8:19:45 PM PDT
A volunteers fire department, which lost everything when its fire station burned on Sunday, is determined to keep protecting people and property from fire. The blaze destroyed the 356 Volunteer Fire Department's station just outside Trinity.

"When you're looking at your fire station burning, it seems like an eternity," 356 Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jesse Baker said.

Chief Baker says early Sunday morning he was going through the emotions like the people he's always tried to help.

"I was experiencing it because this is my house," Baker said.

356 Volunteer Fire Department was fully engulfed and so was all of their firefighting equipment inside -- four vehicles, air packs, communications were gone. Only the tower still stands.

"Our frequency is dead until we can get another repeater," Baker said.

The station serves a rural area near Trinity, Texas along the Trinity-Polk County line. Losses are estimated at around $400,000 and the department of 20 volunteers only had liability insurance on the trucks.

"We had to decide whether we wanted to put fuel in our trucks or insurance on our building and we opted for the fuel in the truck," Baker said.

There's never a good time to be an out-of-service fire station, but especially in the middle of one of the driest summers on record. Should there be an emergency the next closest fire station is eight miles one way, 16 miles the other.

"It's a very, very dangerous time of year and the first thing that went thrrough my mind was we're not gonna have a truck to fight any of this," Baker said.

But the chief quickly realized he's not alone. Calls have come in from Kemah to fire departments in Illinois and Arkansas.

"It will come together, we'll get there," Baker said.

Loaner trucks are already parked by the burned out building.

"They cover a large area and I hate it for them, but they are going to have to rebuild from the ground up," Houston firefighter Kenny Sheffield said.

Firefighters stick together and so does this community.

"It's probably going to be rough but I'm sure the community will pull together for them," resident Keith Boutain said.

Piece by piece, they're trying to rebuild what took years of fish fries and barbecues to fund.

"We've got some cyclists, a lot of motorcyclists around here; we'll probably throw a benefit or something," resident Jack Garrett said.

And as hot as that building got, Chief Baker is amazed at the one thing he still recognizes.

"There's not a scortch mark, there's not smoke mark, anywhere on those flags. That tells me this fire department was meant to be here," Baker said.

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