Avant Volunteer Fire Department's Main Truck Destroyed By Vandals

Wednesday, December 11th 2013, 10:35 pm
By: Tess Maune

Vandals torched a Green Country volunteer fire department's most valuable truck.

The Avant fire chief said the station's office was trashed the same night.

"I was in shock. And then it turned to anger," said Avant Fire Department Chief Gene Atkins.

The emotions are still raw for Atkins, even though it's been a week since someone broke into his station, ransacked the office and left the department's charred truck on a rural Osage County road.

"I hope they had fun while they were doing it, I really do, because now they put the entire community in jeopardy," Atkins said.

The first out the door for every fire, big or small, it was also used to meet medical needs in the community.

"Could maneuver it a lot easier, could get there a lot quicker," Atkins said.

It was insured, but with a high deductible. And with a volunteer department that runs off less than $20,000 a year, Mayor Justin Brown said the loss is huge.

"We're at about $120,000 right now, with everything that was on it, the rig itself," Brown said.

But it's not about the money--it's about the meaning behind it. Former Fire Chief Dale Soule campaigned to get Avant a new truck for years. His wish came true with a grant in 2008.

"It was a joyous, joyous day," Brown said. "They handed us the keys and his face lit up and it wasn't about, 'Look what I did.' It was about, 'Look what I did for the town.' That was it."

Five months later, at just 41, Soule died of a heart attack. The truck gave him his final ride, carrying the casket to Soule's grave.

"We honored that. That was his and with it being destroyed the way it was destroyed, it took the last piece of Dale Soule out of here and it really upset us," Atkins said.

But there is still a piece of Soule in this station--in a lesson he's left with the community.

"Never defeated, never, no matter what, we'll move on. Let's say a prayer and go fight a fire. That's what we'd do, that was Dale Soule," Brown said.

If you have any information about who may be responsible, call the Osage County Sheriff's Office.