Burning Fire Stations

 

A fire truck burns inside a historic Philadelphia fire station. The cause was undetermined.

A fire truck burns inside a historic Philadelphia fire station. The cause was undetermined.

Stuff happens, as the saying goes and firefighters are no more immune to that than anyone. It’s just a little more embarrassing when it’s the fire station that’s burning. Yes, it happens.

Sometimes it’s arsonists who have it in for us. In 1972 a firebug put the torch to the beautiful and historic Toronto Fire Station 315. The station, originally known as station #8 on Toronto’s College Street was being renovated at the time and the arsonist struck at night while the building was empty. The fire did extensive damage to the station’s graceful hose tower as well as the main building.

Toronto Fire Station 315 as it was in 1971, a year before the fire (left) and after the building and tower were restored (right).

Toronto Fire Station 315 as it was in 1971, a year before the fire (left) and after the building and tower were restored (right).

When it was built in 1875, (and for many years after, before home phones were common and anyone had thought of 911), firefighters would keep watch over the city from atop that tower, keeping an eye out for the telltale plumes of smoke. Fortunately, the city saw fit to restore the building, including reproducing the tower’s original clock that was destroyed in the fire. If you’ve read The Spark you know I have a soft spot for historic fire stations.

Sometimes it’s our own fault. About 20 years ago someone left the deep fryer on, when Toronto’s fireboat, the William Lyon MacKenzie, responded to a call.

Toronto's Fire Boat the William Lyon MacKenzie. The only fire fighting and ice breaking tug on Lake Ontario.

Toronto’s Fire Boat the William Lyon MacKenzie. The only fire fighting and ice breaking tug on Lake Ontario.

By the time the MacKenzie returned to her berth in old Station 35, beside the Toronto ferry docks, the kitchen was pretty well gutted. Having accidentally set fire to my parents’ house while making french fries, when I was 17, I had some sympathy for parties involved.

Then there things you can only regard as an “act of God” – a freak accident. On May 24, 2012, the driver of a dump truck lost control and hit a car. Both vehicles careened into volunteer Fire Station #61 in Lower Saucon, Pennsylvania, setting fire to the station. The driver of the car was killed, but the truck driver escaped with burns to his arms. The station, all its trucks and all the equipment inside were write-offs. The whole video is over 6 minutes long, but it gives a good view of tanker operations in places where there are no fire hydrants.

To top it all off, the scene was hit by a large lightning storm during the firefighting effort. I’m not a fatalist, but it might have been one of those things that was “just meant to be”.

Fire house collapse in Lake Station, Indiana

Fire house collapse in Lake Station, Indiana

No one’s admitting it, but the collapse of Hall #2 in Lake Station, Indiana was probably due to the driver pulling the truck out with a compartment door swung open. In fairness, the building must have been pretty weak for a compartment door to trigger that much damage. Still it’s a big “OOOPS!”

All of this was triggered by a recent flash fiction challenge to write a 250 word ultra-short story from this picture:

burgers-and-dogsMore than one house fire has started from a BBQ, usually due to placing it too close to the building. And what’s more ironic than a burning fire station. The result was ultra-short story I called “Bronte’s Inferno”. You can check it out along with the other entries, and vote for your favorite here.

Hope you’re all having a great summer. And remember don’t leave that BBQ unattended. Accidents happen to the best of us.

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