Copyright 2002 Copley News Service
Copley News Service...12/19/2002
Jayette Bolinski Copley News Service
Volunteer firefighter Mike McKinney had trouble finding the words to describe what it was like for him and fellow firefighters to watch their station burn to the ground Tuesday night.
"To watch your firehouse burn and not be able to do anything to save it is disappointingly devastating," said McKinney, who stood in the street with other firefighters and watched in disbelief as the Fillmore Community Fire Protection District building burned, along with their equipment and fire engines inside.
"To stand there and watch it, it's one of the most devastating things that has ever happened," said McKinney, who also is an emergency medical services technician and pastor of the First Baptist Church in Fillmore, a community of 360 people in southern Montgomery County.
The blaze broke out about 11:45 p.m. in the fire department's cinderblock building at 212 S. Main St.
Firefighters from neighboring districts extinguished the blaze, and the last ones left about 3:15 a.m. Wednesday, McKinney said.
A hazardous-materials recertification class had taken place in the building earlier Tuesday evening. Fire investigators believe a smoldering cigarette butt unknowingly was thrown in a trash can during cleanup after the meeting.
Firefighters spent much of Wednesday scrambling to borrow equipment from other departments.
"We've borrowed, and we're up and running," McKinney said Wednesday night. "We're able to provide EMS and to a certain extent a small amount of fire protection. We're a little uncertain right now. It's just been a devastating 18-hour period for our fire department."
Several fire departments have stepped in to provide equipment and other assistance, McKinney said. Fire and ambulance departments in Carlinville, Hillsboro Nokomis, Ramsey, Coffeen, Vandalia and Lake Zurich have offered fire engines, bunker gear, self-contained breathing apparatus bottles, backboards, splints and automatic external defibrillators.
The Fillmore department has 16 volunteers and serves about 1,000 residents.
"It's been an outpouring of support. It doesn't surprise me really because we've done the same thing for other departments," McKinney said.
"A lot of people don't understand, but there's sort of a brotherhood in the fire service. It's neat that even the big-city fire-protection services care about the little people. In spite of all the disappointment of the fire, you feel good that everybody's doing what they can to help you."
Copley News Service correspondent Jayette Bolinski can be reached at (217) 788-1530 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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