Burned-out fire department back on callFour days after their fire hall was destroyed by fire, members of the Gordon Volunteer Fire Department were back on the job, ready to respond to calls.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Four days after their fire hall was destroyed by fire, members of the Gordon Volunteer Fire Department were back on the job, ready to respond to calls.
“Solon Springs and Wascott will still be automatically dispatched by the Communications Center for all calls,” said Gordon Fire Chief Mike Chmielecki, but the department went back online Monday night with a pair of loaner trucks and other donated equipment.
The cause of the fire was undetermined, but it appeared to have started in the fire hall office and was not suspicious, according to a report by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
The fire was called in at about noon Thursday. By the time crews from Wascott, Solon Springs, Barnes and Minong helped put the blaze out, the metal-sided building and all its contents — six vehicles, turn out gear, computers, extrication equipment, radios and more — were destroyed. Chmielecki estimated the damage at more than $1 million. When he got to the fire hall on County Road Y Thursday, flames were coming through both garage doors.
“It was pretty unbelievable,” said Chmielecki, who has been with the department since 1995. “It was just hard to believe.” Explosions sounded as pressurized equipment like oxygen bottles and air packs were devoured by the fire.
The Gordon Fire Hall, built in 1979, served as the incident command post during the Germann Road fire in May which devoured about 7,500 acres. Firefighters congregated again Thursday to fight a blaze.
“Having the two events in one year’s time, there’s really no words for it,” said Courtney Rose, a town of Gordon supervisor and a lieutenant with the volunteer fire department. “It shows the community we’re in. They pulled together at that time and they’re doing it again now.”
Volunteer firefighters from Wascott, Solon Springs and Barnes were tapped to respond to calls over the weekend. The village of Grantsburg has loaned the Gordon firefighters a brush truck; the town of Jackson brought them a tanker truck. Custom Fire in Osceola has offered another fire truck for them to use. The phone has been ringing off the hook, Chmielecki said, with fire departments as far away as Indiana and Canada expressing support and asking how they could help. And plans are already in the works for a community fundraiser Friday, complete with dinner, music and silent auctions.
“I shouldn’t say I’m surprised,” Rose said. “If you look at the Germann Road fire, how well everyone worked together in the area, I’m not surprised. It’s overwhelming how quickly it happened.”
The Gordon Volunteer Fire Department has about 15 members and responds to about 80 incidents a year, the majority being medical calls. For the short term, the department can make due with parking their trucks near where the fire hall stood. But once cold weather hits, they’ll need heated garage space. The town of Gordon highway department is carving out some space for the fire department vehicles in one of their buildings, Chmielecki said. The fire chief said he expects it will be at least six months before a new building could be erected.
Karen Rose and Pam Boettcher spent their weekend hunting up silent auction prizes, enlisting salad makers and getting other donations for a Friday fundraiser to aid the fire department.
“It’s been a phenomenal outpouring of concern and humanity,” Boettcher said, which has been at times emotional. “We’re trying to get a public safety entity up and running as fast as possible.” The plans have taken wings, she said.
A dinner of hot beef sandwiches, au gratin potatoes, salads and desserts will be offered from 4-8 p.m. at the Gordon Town Hall on County Highway Y. The cost for a meal is $8. There will be raffle drawings every hour, free outdoor kids activities from 4 p.m. until dark and two separate silent auctions from 4-6 and 6-8 p.m. as well as music from 6:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. and a 50/50 raffle. All the food has been donated, so every cent raised will go to bridging any gaps in insurance coverage for rebuilding and re-equipping the fire hall.