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Forest fire house rebuilding efforts could take months

FOREST, Ind. -- The work is far from over for Forest Volunteer Fire Department's chief.

Nearly 48 hours after an EF-1 tornado hit, cleanup continued at their badly-damaged fire house.

Although they knew it already, the fire officials got the official word Monday that their fire house can't be saved.

"The insurance agent told us today he wants an estimate for the demolition, a haul off and somebody to come in and give us an estimate to build it back," said assistant chief Mike Tate.

Looking at the building, it's easy to see why it has to be demolished.

The wall on one side is almost completely gone. There's hardly any support left for the roof and it visibly sags on one end, where the insulation and framing, along with the cement blocks, were blown out.

The same system was also responsible for a collapsed barn and toppled tree just down the street, plus an entire porch ripped off the house right next door.

The damage is even more shocking when you consider a couple, miraculously unhurt, hid inside as the storm hit.

Now that the fire house is officially set to get demolished, the firefighters are working to figure out the rest of the puzzle.

An insurance adjuster, plus demo and construction crews all came to the site Monday afternoon. Volunteer firefighters also carefully removed the last of their items from the building.

"When you go in, you don't know when you hear something creaking," said Tate. "But it’s been pretty quiet. As long as the wind doesn't blow, I think it's pretty sturdy."

The big concern now is finding a place for their trucks.

So far, they've only got offers for places that could house only one of two trucks. Tate says having the trucks spread out would be chaotic and further slow response times.

The chief says they hope to have a single building for all four trucks soon, but don't expect to be able to start rebuilding until mid-summer.

They previously had plans to add on to their building and add indoor plumbing. Having the tornado hit means they'll have to abandon the plan involving a staple of the town.

"It's going to be gone," said Tate. "I hate to see that when I've been here 38 years, but it's not savable."

The department is accepting donations from those who want to help with the rebuilding effort.

You can send money to:

Forest Volunteer Fire Department
P.O. Box 21
Forest, IN 46039​