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A fire station, of all places, was the site of severe fire in East Idaho on Monday.

The Firth fire station, part of the Shelley-Firth Fire District on Firth’s main street, suffered heavy losses Monday morning in a blaze that totaled equipment and sent one firefighter to the hospital where he was treated and released, with his apparent injuries mostly involving smoke inhalation.

Firth Fire Chief Dale Mecham said an electrical problem was the apparent cause of the fire. The state Fire Marshal’s office was on the scene investigating, and Mecham said the 21-man volunteer department would have to wait for its insurance company to investigate.

Mecham said two engines, one brush rig and two pumpers were all totaled with damage to other trucks. He said they were able to save all brush rigs but one. One firefighter was able to pull a pumper truck out of the south end of the building away from the flames to start fighting the fire, which had firefighters from Shelley, Blackfoot and Ammon responding to battle the blaze.

Early Monday afternoon, personnel were tearing roofing off the north end of the building and reporting flames inside the roof area which needed to be extinguished.

Mecham said the call on the fire came in around 9:10 a.m.

At least six Bingham County Sheriff’s deputies responded and aided with traffic control and re-routing of traffic on U.S. Highway 91 through the outer parts of Firth and away from the fire. Firth is between Blackfoot and Idaho Falls on U.S. 91, which runs parallel to Interstate 15.

The heat from the fire reportedly caused tires on the trucks in the building to blow and the resulting explosion was enough to knock over people standing about 30 to 40 feet away from the building at the time.

The Firth School District has reportedly offered to allow the fire department to store vehicles and other equipment in the school district’s bus barns as needed.

In addition, area fire departments will make available vehicles that can be used by the Firth department to battle any future fires until the building and equipment can be replaced through the department’s insurance coverage.

LaVar Jolley, 63, who’s been a volunteer at the Firth station since 1995, was the firefighter injured as a result of the blaze.

“I’m doing fine, the smoke inhalation didn’t cause any serious problem,” Jolley said.

Jolley said he was hit by a concussion blast on his right side from an oxygen tank that fell from the truck that sustained the heaviest damage. The oxygen tank exploded when it hit the ground and sent shrapnel flying, Jolley said.

He added that doctors told him the structure of his ear is good. He’s been given a steroid medication and will be following up with an ear, nose and throat specialist to check for any damage.

Jolley said he was in the man door at the front of the station on a fire hose shooting water toward the flames about 15 feet away when the medical oxygen tank fell and blew up.

“All of our fire gear was in the fire, all our protective gear was in there,” Mecham said. “One of the guys was able to pull some out. It’s fortunate that one of the firefighters was still able to pull that pumper truck out.

“I turned to the right in the doorway, and there was a very large concussion blast that dropped me to my knees. When I got to my feet my ear was hurting badly and I was staggering a bit.”

Jolley said he could only put on the clothing he had when he got the call, which amounted to a T-shirt and blue jeans.

“I feel very blessed that I wasn’t hit by shrapnel,” he added. “That oxygen tank just blew apart. There was a metal desk nearby which was moved three feet back from where it had been from the explosion. I was hit really hard on the right side of my body.”

Jolley said his ears are sore, but doctors determined he didn’t rupture either ear drum.

“I really do feel I have been blessed; it could have been a total disaster,” he said. “After I left the house, my wife had been praying to watch over the family. I was definitely watched over.”

Jolley’s son, Firth Mayor Brandon Jolley, also a volunteer firefighter at the Firth station, was at his day job at Melaleuca when the fire was reported. He spent some time with his father after the incident.

“It’s just a devastating loss for the community,” Brandon Jolley said. “It’s pretty much total destruction. It’s kind of heartbreaking to see. There’s definitely a need for a fire station in Firth, the assumption will be that we’ll rebuild.”

He said he had visited with Shelley Fire Chief Randy Adams, whose department will still provide coverage as needed, and other departments can also help with equipment until the Firth station can recover more.

“I’m glad nobody was seriously hurt,” Mecham said. “We can replace equipment, but you can’t replace personnel. We greatly appreciate the help from the community.”

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