UNITY TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Smoke billowed from the Unity Township maintenance garage Sunday morning as fire ripped through the building, destroying heavy equipment.
Shawn Gracie was awakened by several explosions at the Unity Township maintenance garage just across the highway on Beatty County Road.
The fire broke out around 8:45 a.m.
“I looked across and you could see flames 20, 30 feet above the roof of building, then just kept exploding, exploding, exploding,” he said. “It was all the trucks in there. Tires popping, diesel tanks exploding.”
The township stores road maintenance trucks and other pieces of equipment in the building. About half of the equipment was saved.
“From what I’m to understand, they got eleven trucks out, and in the process of trying to get them out, I guess a couple of them might have hit each other, trying to get out so fast,” Gracie said.
Other pieces of equipment were lost.
Unity Township Roadmaster Chairman John Mylant said they lost seven big trucks, a utility truck, a street sweeper and a forklift, among other large pieces of equipment.
The building was almost destroyed when firefighters arrived.
“The building’s 80 by 300 with an overhang, and the overhang and probably two-thirds of the building was fully involved when we got here,” Lloydsville Vol. Fire Dept. Chief Bryan Schultheis said. “Half the roof of the building was already off.”
Nearly 100 firefighters were called to the scene, but by then, the roof was gone and the building was so unstable, it quickly became a defensive battle.
Three firefighters were injured.
“One with heart, one with heat and one just wasn’t feeling well,” Schultheis said.
Meanwhile, Gracie is ready to help the township recover from its losses.
“I would like to see a fundraiser started to help the township out and help them get some of their equipment back,” he said.
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Officials say, thankfully, much of what was lost was new and insured.
“One step at a time, we will rebuild,” Mylant said.
Officials say the most immediate need is to find a temporary place to store the equipment which was saved.
“We need a roof over our head now,” Mylant said. “We’ve got to find a place to house the equipment, and get a few tools we need. We’re not going to be able to go out and get everything we want, but [we need to] get some tools we need so we can maintain things.”
Officials were scheduled to tour some potential sites Monday afternoon.
Nearby municipalities are already chipping in to help. Many have offered to share their trucks with Unity Township until the town can get new ones.
Others are already sending over supplies.
“[Monday] morning, I had half a dozen stop signs [delivered],” Mylant said. “Stop signs. Because if someone runs over a stop sign, that’s our job… Public safety, first and foremost. We won’t miss a beat.”
“[We’re] very appreciative of all the phone calls and generous offers,” Mylant said. “It’s just a great feeling the way everybody is coming together.”