Firefighters recount tornado damage at Little Rock Fire Station No. 9

Fire crew temporarily operating out of different site

Captain Shawn Fisher, from Little Rock Fire Station 9, talks about experiencing Friday's tornado, which damaged the fire station, during a press conference in Little Rock on Monday, April 3, 2023. More photos at Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Firefighters whose west Little Rock station was damaged following Friday’s devastating tornado are operating out of a different location as cleanup efforts continue Monday. 

Little Rock Fire Department Operating Chief Michael Doan said the move was temporary, but that it was too soon to tell when the firefighters would be able to return to work at their station.

Fire Station No. 9, 1324 N. Shackleford Road, was heavily damaged when the tornado swept through Central Arkansas, cutting a six-and-a-half mile trail of destruction in the city before continuing north through North Little Rock, Sherwood and Jacksonville.

Capt. Shawn Fisher, who was acting battalion chief at the station on Friday, said the firefighters had been preparing their apparatus and tools when the tornado struck. 

“I heard one of them say ‘debris,’ and I looked up and there was, probably five or six hundred feet in the air, what looked to be flies,” he said.

They ran to Fisher’s office, the last one in shutting the door, and took cover. 

“The freight train came through,” he said.

After the tornado passed, they checked on one another, examined the station for damage and shut off the water and gas. A 40-foot beam had traveled roughly 60 yards from a neighboring church and struck “halfway through the station.” 

One of the facility’s engine bay doors flew about 80 yards to the west, damaging another building.

Fisher said he has no idea how much repairs to the station will cost.

Despite the damage to the facility, its vehicles — two engines, a ladder truck, an SUV and the battalion chief's pickup — are operational,

That was when residents began walking up to the station, seeking shelter.

“Most of them were in shock,” he said, but added that nobody was seriously injured. This was the first time Fisher can remember ever having anyone shelter at the station. The captain said he has been with the fire department for 18 years.

During a city Board of Directors briefing about the storm response on Monday morning, Fire Chief Delphone Hubbard said the firefighters at the station went “right to work.”