HOMEWOOD, Ill. — A small all-volunteer fire department in southern Cook County is picking up the pieces after a group ripped its headquarters to shreds over the weekend.
Among the damaged is a sentimental piece from the ruins of Ground Zero from September 11, 2001.
“We go to people’s homes on their worst day. This hit home to us,” said Homewood Acres Fire Chief Bryan Rouson.
With hammers in hand, four young vandals, captured on surveillance video, spent nearly five hours inside the fire department headquarters. The destruction lasted Saturday between 8:15 a.m. and 1 p.m., hours the all-volunteer department of 12 is unstaffed.
There was no burglary alarm.
Rouson said the scope of the damage was incomprehensible at first.
“It’s shocking to see. At first, you can’t wrap your mind around it quick enough. Why would somebody do this?” Rouson asked. “So many questions come to mind and then when we realized it had to be juveniles, it kind of sunk to a real low for me.”
A Cook County Sheriff’s Detective was back at the scene Wednesday, gathering more evidence.
The young vandals wrecked their way through the building, hitting the kitchen, bathroom, office, and training room. The juvenile also destroyed a decades-old piece from Ground Zero.
“They seem like they had no conscience of what they were doing, no fear of retribution, punishment,” Rouson said. “It was just a day at the park for them.”
Left untouched was a framed wall piece dedicated to David and Cecilia Pelke, a husband-wife team who were integral to the operation years ago.
Rouson hopes the youth responsible are held accountable.
“They did what they did,” Rouson said. “They need to take the consequences that should be assessed to it. You can’t go through life just having disregard for people’s property. We’re a people-helping-people organization. They kind of halted that for us.”
While insurance covers some of the damage, it won’t cover it all, Rouson said. He is confident that Homewood Acres Volunteer Fire Department will rebuild and be better than ever, however.
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“Bigger and stronger than we were,” Rouson said. “I had a smile on my face when I came in and saw the sign that said, HAVFD Strong.”