A late afternoon blaze Thursday destroyed Sulphur Bluff Community Center and Fire Station. No one was injured, but most of Sulphur Bluff Volunteer Fire Department’s apparatus was inside the building, including the newest tanker.
The cause of the blaze had yet to be determined Thursday night. Sulphur Springs and Franklin County Fire Marshals are assisting the Hopkins County Fire Marshal with the investigation into the blaze.
Local emergency dispatchers were notified around 5:30 p.m. April 1 that the community building at the intersection of FM 71 at FM 69 was on fire. All available firefighters from the northeastern portion of Hopkins County, along with North Franklin and Delta County fire departments responded to aid Sulphur Bluff VFD, including units from Mount Vernon, Klondike, Cooper, Sulphur Bluff, Dike, North Hopkins, Tira, Brinker, Saltillo and Hopkins County fire departments. Hopkins County EMS stood by at the location. Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office and a Constable also responded to assist at the scene.
The fire was reported to be blazing out one end of the structure when responders began arriving. The fire had been knocked down by about 6:30 p.m. but crews continued to work at the scene into the night, initially pulling filing cabinets and other items from among the debris and working to make sure as many smoldering embers as possible were extinguished.
While the charred remains of at least two fire trucks were visible through open places in the bent metal bays at the western end of the building, the front of the far eastern end of the building does not appear from the outside to have sustained as much fire damage. However, a glance from the back into the building confirms the entire structure sustained heavy damage.
Although most of the department’s trucks burned in the structure, SBVFD is not completely deplete of apparatus. SBVFD members who were nearby were able to get one brush truck out of the station; it appeared to be undamaged, parked in the yard behind the building as crews worked to extinguish the blaze. At least one older truck that’d been relocated and taken out of service to make room for newer apparatus in the station is also reportedly still operational, and was utilized at the scene.
Sulphur Bluff Fire Station was constructed using funds raised at area events in 1976 for the event. The Sulphur Bluff Volunteer Fire Department has a heritage of providing fire protection in Hopkins County following a disastrous fire at the Sulphur Bluff School gym. Over a dozen community members gathered in 1974 to begin organizing the department to provide fire protection for Hopkins County.
Some of those citizens and/or their family members continued to serve a volunteers for the department. Sulphur Bluff VFD was founded in late 1975 as one of the first volunteer fire departments to serve Hopkins County.
In 1976, with revenue sharing money and the assembly of units in Wichita Falls, Sulphur Bluff received the first of five fire trucks purchased as 1976 one-ton chassis by Hopkins County through Price Ford Sales of Sulphur Springs. As of 2020, SBVFD was reported to have 13 members supporting six fire apparatus. In February, Sulphur Bluff Masonic Lodge recognized SBVFD for the valuable service by presenting the department with a Community Builder award, the highest honor Masons bestow on a non-Mason.
“They do it without any fanfare and they don’t expect any recognition. They just go out there and they help take care of their neighbors, and that is what this is all about,” Wade Bartley said when he extended the award to the SBVFD officers.
Thursday, SBVFD members worked alongside other volunteers and HCFD, as they have on so many calls, thankful no one was hurt and for those who responded with aide when their department and community needed it. They anticipate after everything settles, including handling insurance claims, SBVFD will begin rebuilding the department in order to continue serving the community.