Garrison Celebrates Fire Station Rebuilt After 2011 Wind Storm
By Dave Franzman and Sam Lane, Reporters
GARRISON, Iowa — The volunteer firefighters in Garrison, Iowa didn’t attend to their own damaged homes after a windstorm ripped through the sleepy town nearly a year ago.
Instead, they came to the fire station on which their community relied.
“One thing that was pretty significant — every single member had damage to their home,” said Garrison Fire Chief Steve Meyer. “But they put that aside because of their sense of duty.”
As a result of gusts measured at more than 130 mph, Garrison’s 17-year-old Emergency Services Building was leveled. Siding lay on top of trucks and rubble was strewn throughout the vicinity. But, as Meyer said, the work of the town’s firefighters and first responders doesn’t stop for a devastating storm.
In the days following the disaster, a house caught fire in the area and crews here were forced to use a truck with a caved roof and flopping mirrors to put out the blaze.
“It was quite the ordeal, but I don’t remember a cross word from anyone,” said Meyer, who added the only person to leave the department during the tragedy did so through normal retirement.
Without a base, the fire department’s trucks were housed in a shed a mile away. Firefighters stored their gear in their homes. Meyer said the crew dealt with around 10 emergencies in its time without a structure.
It took months for officials to move the fire trucks and equipment back into their repaired facility. And on Saturday, area residents celebrated the building’s return to full functionality. A slideshow in a meeting room recounted the storm’s devastation and tattered flags from the facility hanged from the ceiling. Four perfectly-polished and repaired trucks sat in the garage.
“Every Garrison resident will tell you it was a struggle,” Shirley Meyer, Chief Meyer’s mother and a 50-year resident of the town, said of the disaster. “I don’t think there was anyone who wasn’t affected. It was heart-breaking in so many ways.”
Steve Meyer said damage from the storm reached nearly $500,000. Repairs on the trucks cost $50,000 alone. The building is now around 7,000 square feet and the department’s various awards dot walls and counters around the entire space.
But the 25 firefighters and 12 emergency medical service personnel here said they are now relieved to be returning to normal.
“I’m excited to be back,” said Vanessa Abrams, an EMS staff member in Garrison.
For Meyer, the repaired Emergency Services Building in Garrison has a greater significance.
“The last thing left in a lot of small communities is the fire department,” he said. “It’s the last thing left the community has to identify with. To have a good volunteer fire department is one of the last things they can say is theirs.”
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