ST. ANNE — Firefighters are ready at a moment’s notice to battle a blaze, a car crash or other emergencies.
You’re glad they are there for you and your family. But when your local fire station is the structure on fire, it becomes surreal for the firefighters. And that’s what occurred last Sunday for the St. Anne Protection District.
Shortly before 1 a.m., St. Anne Police Officer Russ Hoekstra was on patrol and smelled smoke. When he arrived on scene, flames were shooting from the department’s side building roof, St. Anne Fire Chief Tim Douglas said.
“There’s no doubt about it, Russ got there at the right time or we would have lost the main building,” Douglas said.
Training turned into action as the district’s three engines, tender and brush truck were all removed from the station’s main building.
Hoekstra alerted the Riverside Ambulance crew stationed in the main building. They were able to get their ambulance out.
Damage was estimated between $750,000 and $1 million, Douglas said. The building is a total loss.
The fire is under investigation but is believed to be accidental, Douglas said
Lost in the fire were the department’s duty pickup, rehab trailer and water rescue trailer, jon boat and its equipment, spare hoses and spare gear.
At the time of the fire, Douglas was out of town for his son’s wedding and Assistant Fire Chief Rick Schoon was at work.
“We are very proud of our guys and all the other departments,” Douglas said of those who fought the fire.
Whenever St. Anne responds to a fire call, Aroma, Momence, Papineau and Pembroke fire districts are called out as part of auto-aid.
Douglas said the blaze went to a second box alarm, which brought departments from Beaverville, Kankakee City, Kankakee Township, Bradley, Manteno, Grant Park, Watseka, Chebanse Township and Riverside Ambulance. One firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation.
Douglas has been involved with the department for 33 years and said it is the first time the station caught fire.
“We have had a lot of departments reach out to us and tell us if we need something to call them,” Douglas said. “We are a farming community and people in the community offered to help if we needed to store equipment. There are a lot of people there to help us out.”