An ambulance caught on fire Thursday night inside the garage of the Western Berks Ambulance Association  station in West Lawn and smoke damage put a second ambulance and a support vehicle as well as the station itself temporarily out of service, a fire official said Friday morning.

The fire was discovered by the on-duty crew at the ambulance company's headquarters at 2506 Belmont Ave. about 7 p.m. when they heard noises, said Chief Colin Hackman of Spring Township Fire Rescue Services. The smoke eventually set off the alarm system.

The initial fire crew found an ambulance engulfed in flames on the first floor of the two-story garage.

Crews had the flames under control within 15 minutes, containing the fire to the first-floor garage area, but a second alarm was struck to draw more personnel to assist with ventilating the structure and removing salvageable items. Up to 35 firefighters responded.

Besides the destroyed ambulance, fire caused cosmetic and smoke damage to another ambulance and a support vehicle, Hackman said.

The township fire marshal and a state police fire marshal conducted a preliminary investigation Thursday night but did not determine the cause. They planned to resume the investigation Friday.

Anthony Tucci, chief of Western Berks EMS, said Wernersville-based Western Berks Fire Department offered access to its unused station along Brownsville Road in Lower Heidelberg Township.

The site, opposite Ganley’s Pub, was once the home of the defunct Lower Heidelberg Township Fire Company. Tucci hoped the ambulance service would be operating out of there by the end of Friday.

In the meantime, the ambulance company has relocated two ambulances to the Spring department's main station in West Wyomissing as well as the fire station along Penn Avenue in Wyomissing.

The West Lawn headquarters is one of five stations operated in Berks County by the nonprofit ambulance association. It runs 14 ambulances, with eight of them in service during the day and six at night, Tucci said.

"The loss of an ambulance is always going to be great but we do have contingency plans for that," he said. "We'll make due. Other services have offered us additional units if we have to borrow them."

Western Berks Ambulance fire February 18, 2021

The attached bays of the Western Berks EMS station on Belmont Avenue in West Lawn is boarded up Friday morning after an ambulance inside caught on fire Thursday night.

A restoration crew was to begin the cleanup process.

The station has been the headquarters for Western Berks Ambulance Association since 1971, when the non-profit ambulance association built it.

The ambulance association was founded in 1961 by seven members of the West Lawn Lions Club. It was previously housed in the West Lawn Fire Company, which is now the West Lawn Public Library.

"There were no lives lost," Tucci said. "Thankfully it happened at a time they were awake."

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