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Electrical short blamed for blaze that destroyed Topeka fire station

MONTICELLO — The fire that destroyed the Topeka fire stationSaturday night was caused by an electrical short, according to alocal fire official.

Robert Patterson, Lawrence County fire coordinator, said thestate fire marshal ruled Monday that the fire was caused when anelectrical spark ignited in the storage area above the station’skitchen.

“It spread rapidly, very rapidly,” he said.

Patterson said the fire must have ignited between 1:30 a.m. and2:20 a.m. Saturday. At 1:30 a.m. two deputies were in the station’sparking lot watching the four-way stop sign intersection on ChinaGrove and Holmesville roads.

“They said they didn’t see anything or smell anything,” hesaid.

The fire was reported at 2:21 a.m. by a passing motorist. Thestructure was fully involved when reported.

The structure and its contents were a total loss. Besides thebuilding, the department lost two trucks, a rescue van and afour-wheel drive pickup used for woods fires and to locate missingpersons. One of the trucks had only recently been purchased. Theyalso lost all of their equipment, such as turnout gear, airpacksand hoses.

The fire coordinator said the loss is a first for thecounty.

“This has never happened in Lawrence County,” Patterson said.”We don’t know where to turn.”

Fortunately, they turned to the right people. Fire stationsthroughout the area have moved to assist.

“They’re coming out all right,” Patterson said. “You wouldn’tbelieve the people who are jumping out to help them.”

The biggest boost has perhaps been from Marion County’sTri-Community Volunteer Fire Department. Patterson said they sent afully equipped truck that Topeka can use as long as necessary. Inaddition, Patterson said, Linda Stuckey, one of the department’svolunteers, has made an Internet plea for financial assistance.

“They’re helping us out tremendously,” Patterson said.

Wesson VFD is also contributing. According to Assistant FireChief Daniel Farrish the department is donating $100, and theLadies Auxiliary is donating an Afghan to help raise money.

“We challenge everyone to do the same or better,” Farrishsaid.

Silver Creek VFD has loaned Topeka a truck and Oakvale VFD hassent hoses.

Patterson said Monticello Fire Department has very little extraequipment that would help them, but a fortunate coincidence shouldgive them some benefit. Topeka had recently purchased some turnoutgear from Monticello to be delivered Aug. 1 when Monticelloreceives their new gear. Patterson said that should provide themwith an adequate, if not desirable, number of suits.

“We do appreciate all of the help from the county and those fromsurrounding counties,” Patterson said. “With their help Topekashould be all right.”

Residents in the northwest portion of Topeka’s district areunaffected by the fire. They are protected by Topeka’s substationat Center. Patterson said Center is serving as the department’sheadquarters at the moment.