Now that the investigation of the Golder Ranch Fire District station fire in SaddleBrooke is completed, I wanted to let everyone know exactly what occurred.
It is not every day that a fire station catches on fire, but it does happen. What it does reinforce is that fires can happen to anybody, anywhere, anytime.
We became aware of the fire at about 12:45 a.m. June 17 while the six firefighters were asleep. It was caused by an electrical problem in the apparatus bay. Initially we thought it started in the communications room and spread to the bay, but it turned out to be just the opposite. This explains why the smoke detectors were not sounding when the captain awoke, and why he didn't smell any smoke. What woke him was the noise of the fire. He went to check out the noise, looked into the bay from a window in the communications room and saw the bay on fire.
He immediately ran to the bunk room where the other five firefighters were located and told them the bay was on fire. Some of the crew ran to the bay and saw an orange glow (fire) near the front, but the rest of the bay was total darkness. As they opened the bay doors to get their engine and ambulance out, they discovered that the darkness they were seeing was the bay filled completely with smoke and this let in all the oxygen from the outside and the entire bay spontaneously ignited.
The ceiling had open insulation with a metallic paper covering. The paper with its metallic coating starting falling and melting from the ceiling, causing fire to rain down from above. The quick-acting crew grabbed a garden hose and an extinguisher and maneuvered through the flames to get to their turnouts in the apparatus. They then managed to put on their gear and drive the engine and ambulance out of the bay. The fire was falling all around them and had burned both vehicles. The hose in the bed of the fire engine was on fire and they had to climb up and put that out as well.
Other units were now en route. Not only did they have to put the fire out on their vehicles and hose, but also had to uncouple the hose sections that were burnt and reconnect the hose. Within a short time after getting the apparatus out of the bay, the living quarters became involved.
These same firefighters grabbed hose lines, made a water supply and attacked the fire themselves before others arrived. It took approximately 30 minutes to get the fire under control.
This fire would be no different than your garage catching on fire in the middle of the night and you running to get the rest of your family out safely. Now, not only imagine your garage catching on fire, but the entire ceiling being involved and fire raining down on you while you desperately tried to get your vehicle out. Then, not only having to put the fire out on your vehicle but also having the responsibility to now fight the fire in your own home.
I want to say how proud I am of those six firefighters and their heroic acts which saved their apparatus, most of their station and most importantly each other. Buildings can be replaced, but people cannot.
Let us never forget that firefighters, instead of running from a burning building, run into burning buildings because that's what they do. This time is just so happened to be their own building. Next time it might be yours.
John Fink is the Chief of Golder Ranch Fire District.