Two of three cruisers owned by the Castalia Police Department were charred to their shells Monday morning in a fire at the village garage.
An off-duty police officer was changing a fuel pump in one of the cruisers at about 10:35 a.m. when, upon removing the pump, something sparked and ignited the fuel tank.
Castalia police Chief Ken Majoy and Margaretta Township fire Capt. Dan Strayer refused to provide the name of the officer who unsuccessfully changed the pump.
After failing to extinguish the blaze on his own, the officer was treated for smoke inhalation at the hospital but was released Monday afternoon. The garage that contained the cruisers, at 126 Main St., also caught fire.
“We had a snow blower, a tool chest, air compressor and firearms that were destroyed,” Majoy said. “All of the equipment in the vehicles was destroyed too: fire extinguishers, first aid kits, cones, tape measurers, chemical mace, hammers to destroy windows. There are so many things that you don’t think about until you don’t have them anymore”
The officer was able to remove a shotgun and its case, both of which were in one cruiser’s trunk.
Strayer and Majoy could not provide an estimated cost of damage.
The starting price of one equipped police cruiser, based on purchases by other area departments, is typically about $30,000.
“The structure was fully engulfed by the time we got there,” Strayer said. “It took off fast and everything inside was a total loss. The structure will probably have to be torn down and rebuilt”
About 10 firefighters extinguished the blaze in less than 30 minutes, and no one else was injured.
With only one cruiser left for the entire town, Majoy said the two destroyed cars will have to be replaced.
“I talked to the (Erie County) Sheriff this morning and he sent his wishes and said if we need anything they can help, since they have a substation back here” Majoy said. “Right now, we are doing OK as long as our one, new cruiser works. Hopefully it won’t fall apart. You never know."
Story and photos by Brandon Carte