The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 8, 2014

Burst pipes damage Athens fire station

By Budd McLaughlin
bud@athensnews-courier.com

ATHENS —

While firefighters are accustomed to being awakened in the middle of the night, the crew at Athens Fire and Rescue Station No. 1 had a rather rude – and wet – awakening early Tuesday.

Around 3 a.m., firefighters heard a thud and thought someone had crashed into the station.

But then they smelled smoke.

That wasn’t all.

When they got out of bed, they stepped into nearly 2 inches of water.

After leaving the sleeping area, they began looking for the cause of the noise, smoke and water.

It was then that the ceiling collapsed over their beds.

The sprinkler system pipe had burst and broke in about five places, according to Fire Chief Tony Kirk.

He said about 2 inches of water accumulated throughout the station and repairs will probably take at least 60 days.

In the meantime, the firefighters stayed overnight at the city’s other two stations while a contractor removed the damaged ceiling.

Kirk said Station No. 3 on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive will respond to any emergencies in Station No. 1's territory, which is the west Athens area.

During the repair work, firefighters will use two trailers from the Alabama Fire College for housing and sleep quarters.

Kirk said the two trailers, which arrived Tuesday afternoon from Tuscaloosa, will provide living and sleeping quarters for the five-member crew. The trailers will be housed in the bay with the fire engines, allowing the firefighters to respond to emergencies on the west side of the city as usual.

Because of electrical issues and the damaged ceiling, the bay area could not be used to house the trailers Tuesday night. Kirk said the safety issues might be corrected in time for the trailers to be installed in the bay area today.

“We are thankful no one was hurt,” he said. "Hopefully, we will be able to put the trailers in the bays by (today).”