Mike Wilbur


First responders took more than heat than they could handle in Wednesday morning’s deadly explosion in Camden. Firefighters suffered minor injuries though their equipment took the biggest blow.

The Camden Fire Department was one of the first to arrive on scene, hoping for the best.

“We responded knowing what we may be facing,” Chief Robert Medford said.

When they recieved the call about a trucker’s brakes caught on fire, they were also told about what the truck was carrying.

The ammonium nitrate Randall McDougall, 63, was hauling to Texarkana is a common but powerful material. It would kill McDougal, create a 15ft. hole in the highway, destroy homes and damage first-line vehicles.

“I’ve never seen an explosion to this magnitude,” Chief Medford said.

The department arrived on scene just minutes before the explosion. The chief and other firefighters were injured from the impact. The windshield, including other windows, were completely blown out.

The impact from the explosion also caused the chief’s vehicle to deploy its air bags and cave in the car doors, roof and camper shell. All damages the chief says will take some time to replace because they trucks aren’t your average vehicles.

“You can’t just run out and buy a new fire engine off the street. They don’t sell those down the road at your fire truck dealership in town,” Chief Medford said. “A lot of times these trucks have to be ordered in advance.”

Most times, it’s six months in advance. An engine estimates over $400,000. Something the city doesn’t always plan for in their budget.

“It’s a substantial hit to municipalities budget,” Chief Medford said. “I have a 10-year plan for replacing our engines because they’re so expensive. It’s not something you just go out and decide I want a new one.”

He isn’t sure how much the damages will cost. An insurance adjuster will come to determine a price. The department has replaced the damaged engine with a reserve truck. They are still answering calls and emergencies as usual.

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