Three fire trucks and an ambulance worth a total $730,000 were destroyed Monday in a devastating blaze that broke out on the Cambria Volunteer Fire Company's home turf -- inside the firehouse.
Up to 100 firefighters from across Niagara County battled the blaze in the company's main fire station at 4631 Cambria-Wilson Road for more than an hour before bringing it under control.
When the smoke cleared, the loss to fire equipment was staggering, Assistant Fire Chief Shawn M. McIntyre said.
The fire destroyed a ladder truck valued at $350,000; the main pumper, worth $150,000; an ambulance costing $130,000; and a utility truck valued at $100,000, he said.
All the vehicles and the fire hall are insured.
"This is the most damaging fire, in terms of monetary loss, in my 20 years of experience," McIntyre said.
Firefighters from volunteer companies in Wilson, Pekin and Wrights Corners responded to the 1 p.m. blaze. Cambria Fire Chief Dale E. Heiser was in command. Roads in the vicinity of the fire station were closed to traffic.
An ambulance from the Ransomville Fire Company was on standby. There were no injuries.
When the fire was brought under control at 2:30 p.m., investigators from the Niagara County Cause & Origin Team began their work.
As destructive as the blaze was, the damage to the firehouse and potential harm to the firefighters could have been greater, McIntyre said. Oxygen tanks in the ambulances and equipment containing compressed air could have exploded.
"It could have been a whole lot worse," he said.
Town Supervisor Wright H. Ellis witnessed the fire from his window.
"The smoke is very heavy," Ellis said as firefighters turned their hoses on the blaze. "The fire is in the front of the fire hall."
The fire trucks and other pieces of equipment that were destroyed are kept in the bay area, which takes up half of the fire station.
Cambria also operates a fire substation on Upper Mountain Road, which contains a pumper and a heavy rescue truck.
The main firehouse is expected to be out of service for at least a month, McIntyre said. Fire companies in the county immediately came forward and offered to provide equipment for the Cambria department.
"This is a hard loss for the Cambria Fire Company, and the community will suffer, too," said Stan Bailey, chairman of the Youngstown Volunteer Fire Company's "Drive for Life" campaign. The campaign kicks off Feb. 28 in hopes of raising enough money to purchase a new $175,000 ambulance to replace its outdated 1998 model.
New ambulances can cost $150,000 to $175,000, Bailey said, and ladder trucks can run a half-million to a million dollars.
"If you have to replace two or three pieces of equipment," Bailey said, "that's even worse."
Niagara County Correspondent Teresa Sharp contributed to this report.