PHOTOS: Barnard Fire Chief Saves His Own Burning Fire Station
Barnard Fire Chief Scott Mills averts disaster
BARNARD, VT - A fast-thinking fire chief who noticed smoke pouring from his own fire station when he just happened to be driving along Route 12 with his wife Saturday afternoon managed to save not only the town's four large fire engines but ultimately the building as well.
"For a minute it was a little hectic,” Barnard Fire Chief Scott Mills said Saturday after the situation had been brought under control with the help of several of his volunteer firefighters.
Barnard Fire Chief Scott Mills (left) explains to Ascutney Fire Chief Darrin Spaulding what is was like to be the only person on scene when his station caught fire
“My wife and I were going for a Jeep ride,” Mills recalled, explaining that as they drove through the center of the village near Silver Lake and the Barnard General Store shortly before 3 p.m., he'd glanced over at his department’s single-story red-and-white fire station and saw that “black smoke was coming out from underneath the garage door,” at the back.
Screeching to a stop, Mills got out and ran to the front of the garage-like structure and peered inside.
“I didn’t even look in the back end of the building (where the fire was burning). I looked in the front first and then I opened the side door and there was no smoke in the main part of the building so I went and called it in (radioing the dispatchers at the state police barracks to alert his volunteer firefighters) and then I went and got the big trucks out."
The chief got all four fire engines out and parked them away from the building on Route 12
Mills had the presence of mind to park a mini-pumper truck where it could be used by the responding fire crews to attack the situation at the rear-corner of the station which is exactly what the volunteers did when they arrived.
The small station houses all of the Barnard volunteers' turnout gear and specialized equipment
“The couple or three guys that were here first, they knocked the fire down by breaking the window (on the small rear garage bay) and then they opened the door and got it out.”
It turned out that the fire had begun under the dashboard of a six-wheeled Polaris Ranger all-terrain vehicle and the flames were traveling up the largely plastic cab on the ATV and some of the dry wall and attic rafters in the bay were beginning to smolder from the intense climbing heat.
The Ranger, which the department has had for about five years, is used for small forest fires and has a stretcher-like Stokes Basket that can be used for rescues in rugged terrain. Firefighters said the last time it was actually out being used on a fire call was approximately three weeks ago.
“Something shorted out under the hood in that Ranger. That’s where all the wires were burnt” Chief Mills said about the fire's cause, before adding dryly, “I think we’ll order a new one come Monday.”
The burnt Ranger vehicle outside its bay shortly after the fire was extinguished
Upper Valley Mutual Aid Association President Darrin Spaulding, who is also the long-standing chief of the Ascutney Volunteer Fire Department, heard the alarm being sounded for a fire at the Barnard Fire Station on Saturday afternoon and travelled up to the scene to make sure Barnard firefighters were okay but Mills assured him that actual damage to the station was minimal.
Chief Mills (right) stands next to a section of plywood wall that was exposed when the intense heat inside the bay burned away the Tyvek covering
The entire building, the core of which was moved across the brook to its current location in 1957, is due to be replaced in the coming months by a new structure that is already being built a couple of hundred yards away beside the Barnard Town Hall.
If the fire had broken out at night the station likely would have been flattened
“When I first saw the smoke I thought I was going to have to call up the contractor on Monday and tell him to speed up the job,” said a relieved Chief Mills.
Construction of a new Barnard Fire Station is already well underway next to the Barnard Town Hall
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