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Blaze destroys Rapid City town office, fire hall

RAPID CITY — A tiny western Manitoba community is reeling after its town hall and fire hall erupted in flames overnight.

The community of Rapid City, about 30 kilometres north of Brandon, is now left picking up the pieces.

Just after midnight Monday morning, an alarm at the fire hall jolted residents from bed.

The sight of their fire hall and town office in flames brought some to tears.

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“It was sad,” said Tom English, holding back tears, “just couldn’t believe it. Holy, now what do we do? We got nothing.”

English, a 28-year volunteer on the force, and the other firefighters heard the 911 dispatch on their radios.

“It said structure fire at Rapid City fire hall. Oh my god,” said English, who rushed to the hall down the street, where all 18 crew members gathered to try to save their fire trucks.

“My son opened up the door partways. I ran in, started (the rescue wagon) up and got it out. It was so full of smoke you couldn’t see nothing and couldn’t breath,” said English.

English could only save one vehicle; two newly purchased fire trucks, one never used, were destroyed.

“To see them standing there so helpless — they couldn’t do anything because their uniforms were burning and their trucks were inside and they couldn’t do anything,” said Mayor Orest Woloski. “It’s really a helpless feeling.”

Investigators said the fire was an accident. A short in an electrical cord of an air compressor sparked the blaze.

Town employees returned Monday afternoon to salvage what they could, but hundreds of the tow’ns historic records and documents, some dating back 100 years, are now ashes. Residents gathered to watch as the town’s safe, where current documents are stored, was removed from the rubble.

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“We’re a big family and you’ll have people come in here in tears because they’ve lost part of them,” said Woloski.

The community was fundraising to build a new fire hall in three years. That rebuilding process will start now. In the meantime, loaner trucks and equipment are being donated by surrounding towns.