As volunteers helped to clean up what was left within the Somerset-Pulaski County Special Response Team’s building, Chief Doug Baker tried to look at the bright side. After all, it was a chance to do some spring cleaning, he said.
The building, several vehicles and a lot of equipment were severely damaged in a fire that took place Monday afternoon at the SRT’s headquarters on Stigall Drive.
On Saturday, workers were clearing out the building, throwing out anything that can’t be used and saving anything that might be salvageable.
Baker said that next week a company called Servpro would come in and clean the equipment so that SRT can determine what can definitely be saved.
Baker added that although insurance adjusters are still looking over the building and haven’t made a decision on it, Baker believed that the structure would end up being a total loss.
The fire appears to have started in the cab of the Mobile Command Center vehicle due to a fault in a charger that was charging communication equipment.
The vehicle was parked within the SRT building when the fire broke out, causing damage to the interior of the building and quite a bit of equipment.
Baker said that surveillance video of the start of the fire showed a series of flashes coming from the cab which looked like an explosive-type of event.
The truck that burned and the communication equipment inside it cost around $200,000 when it was purchased two years ago, Baker said. Grants covered part of that cost, but the majority was out of their budget.
The vehicle was purchased used, and a brand new outfit similar to what they had costs around $500,000, he said.
No one was in the building at the time the fire broke out, but alarms alerted 911 dispatchers to the problem.
Baker said the fire started around 4:55 p.m. The Somerset Fire Department was called out at 5:01 p.m. and trucks were on the scene by 5:06.
He praised the Somerset Fire Department for its quick response.
Although SRT lost some equipment, Baker said he was grateful there wasn’t more damage. Plus, the SRT’s two macaws were mostly unharmed.
He said that one of the macaws, Romeo, has been at the veterinarian's office being treated for mild smoke inhalation. He will likely be on antibiotics for a couple fo weeks as treatment, but overall he is doing well.
The other bird, Blue, is unharmed. “She was smart. She was on the floor [when Baker found her],” Baker said. “Romeo was on top of the cage.”
He said that he was thankful to Midway Veterinary Hospital, Feeders Supply, Candido’s Towing and several members of the public for helping out with Romeo’s expenses.
Among the helpers cleaning Saturday were firefighters from Lincoln County and a group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Those of SRT’s vehicles that are still able to operate are being housed by the Parkers Mill Fire Department, and every single fire department in the county has offered help in one way or another, Baker said.
He thanked Pulaski County Public Safety Director Stacy Halcomb, County Vehicle Maintenance Director Frank Hansford and Emergency Management/911 Director Aaron Ross for providing SRT with anything they needed, from gloves to containers.
“I wouldn’t be sane if it hadn’t been for those three,” Baker said.
He also expressed thanks to the many businesses and private citizens who have shown support over the past few days.
“The outpouring of support for us, I can’t say how much that’s meant to us,” he said.