Storm-Damaged Garrison Fire Department Seeking Donations

GARRISON, Iowa – Monday’s wind storm did considerable damage in many parts of eastern Iowa. But the Benton County community of Garrison took a real blow to its ability to respond to future emergencies. That storm wiped out the town’s volunteer fire station burying emergency equipment under debris.

Volunteers dug out the fire trucks Monday and are making plans to rebuild. But restoring what they lost may take more financial help than one small town of 350 people can provide. So firefighters are now asking for assistance from people outside their immediate area.

Garrison firefighters do have a new, temporary home of sorts, but it’s not exactly ideal. Jeff Henkle, a volunteer firefighter and farmer, volunteered his family’s machine shed. It’s located about a mile away from the damaged station. That shed also had some wind damage that needs repairs and it will take volunteers a bit more time to don equipment and get out to the trucks.

“Response time will be a little slower, “ Henkle said but added “I think everybody as a whole has come together.”

Typically, when a volunteer department needs assistance, the first thing they’ll do is turn to their own local community. But Garrison Fire Chief Steve Meyer acknowledged that 80 to 90 percent of all buildings in Garrison sustained at least some storm damage. So he knows a lot of local people can’t assist the fire department and fund their own recovery at the same time. That’s why he’s hoping people outside the community will respond.

Meyer said insurance will cover a large portion of the estimated $300,000 in damages to the fire station itself. But he expects the department to have many other expenses insurance won’t cover. So on Thursday, the chief set up a fund to encourage donations for emergency services. And he’s already gotten about $600 from well-wishers even before making the fund public.

“We’ve had people come up and just hand us money already. So it seems to me there’s a lot of generosity out there—kind hearted people like you’d find in Iowa that want to support us,” Meyer said.

Meyer said contributions can go to the Garrison Emergency Services Relief Fund at the U.S. Bank location in Vinton. The address is: U.S. Bank, 110 West Fourth Street, Vinton, Iowa 52349.

Volunteers say they’ve still got a functioning department—and proved it just a day after the storm by responding to a large house fire. But without a station, they’re operating with a definite handicap.

By Dave Franzman, Reporter KCRG.COM