Posted: Dec 23, 2011 6:31 PM
Updated: Dec 23, 2011 8:52 PM
LINN-SAN MANUEL - State fire investigators rule a fire that destroyed the Linn-San Manuel volunteer fire department accidental.
The fire marshal's investigation ruling will help firefighters move forward. They won't let the cruel irony of what happened get in the way of serving.
"It was so heartbreaking. I ripped my heart out. To see everything that we worked so hard for just gone," says Linn-San Manuel fire Chief Mingo Hinojosa.
The words that begin to describe a fire usually don't come from someone who's spent much of their life fighting them.
"Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would have to put out a fire in my own fire station. Never felt so useless and not be able to put out our own fire," says Hinojosa.
Moving forward is harder than just sweeping up what was left. It took days to figure out what happened.
"It's been an emotional roller-coaster to see. Like yesterday, they picked up the burned fire truck," says Hinojosa.
The charred bricks and piles of ash constantly serve as a reminder. Frayed wires show not every battle will be victorious.
"We've cleaned up as much as possible," says Hinojosa.
Fire investigators say something went wrong around the electrical breaker. All volunteers were away celebrating the holidays together.
"It's heartbreaking to see, just like the night of the fire," says Hinojosa.
The crew won't stop doing what they do best. Several trucks were untouched. Some of their gear was spared. What's gone will eventually be replaced. Until then, they'll use loaners from their Valley firefighting family.
"We continue to provide emergency services to our community. We never stopped. We continue to do that," says Hinojosa.
Firefighters here will show their courage and their desire to help another. Only difference is now they'll do it knowing what it's like to lose everything in a flash.
The Linn-San Manuel Fire Department lost their Santa suit in the fire. It's a 27-year tradition that will continue this year. Santa will don a new suit and ride through the community Saturday. Goody bags will be handed out to remind the community the firefighters are still serving.