But, after a closer look, he discovered the door had been pried open.
"When I went inside, I couldn't believe it," Fire Chief Alan Estes told The News. "It just made me sick."
Whomever broke into the building took a fire axe and used it to smash the windshields of the Brockwell station's brush truck, pumper truck and brand new tanker truck. They also broke out headlights, turn lights, emergency lights and mirrors on the vehicles. All four tires on the brush truck were flattened, as was one tire on the pumper and one on the tanker. All of the vehicles, especially the new tanker, suffered body damage from blows from the axe.
The vandals also damaged a computer and a few other items, and made a mess in the department garage and attached training room. Strangely, only a couple of relatively inexpensive pieces of equipment were stolen.
The culprits' parting shot was the most dramatic -- they plunged the axe into the hood of the brush truck, and left it sitting there for all to see -- an axe sticking out of the truck hood.
"It doesn't make any sense," Estes said. "They didn't get inside the trucks and take anything or damage the interiors. They didn't take or damage any of our gear. They just seemed to want to disable our trucks."
If that was the intent, the mission was accomplished. None of the three fire vehicles can be used to respond to fires, and it may be that way for some time.
An insurance adjuster, who examined the damage on Friday, March 16, indicated it could take several weeks to locate the parts needed to get repairs made.
"With three trucks down, our hands are tied, and I'm feeling bad right now," Chief Estes said. "We built this sub-station to do a better job of getting to fires in the southern part of the county (Izard County). Anytime there's a fire in that area, we're going to have to come from the Oxford station, so there's going to be a delay getting there."
Estes said he has notified the Pineville, Franklin and Melbourne fire departments to expect delays from the Oxford Fire Department when they need back-up assistance. He has also asked that they be on standby to help with fires in Oxford's southern coverage area.
Reports of the Brockwell station break-in and vandalism have been aired on television stations in Springfield, Jonesboro and Little Rock.
"We've gotten a lot of calls from other departments, as far away as Russellville, asking how they can help," said Estes, "but there's not much anyone can do. We're just waiting to get repairs made, so the equipment can get back in service."
The Izard County Sheriff's Department has inspected the damage and is investigating. Anyone with information about the incident should call the sheriff's office at 870-368-4203.
Estes does not know of anyone with a grudge against the Brockwell station or it's firefighters, yet it is hard for him to believe someone went to such trouble just out of meanness.
"We were here Saturday (March 10) afternoon after responding to a fire, and everything was fine," Estes said. "They had to have gotten in here between 6 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday. I'm just glad a firefighter didn't stop by when they were in here. He could have gotten attacked with an axe."
Estes said the Oxford department dreamed for years of establishing a Brockwell substation, and a grant combined with community fundraisers made the dream come true about three years ago.
"We finally got to where we had complete sets of equipment at both stations, and everything was going good," Estes said. "That's what hurts -- so many people worked so hard for this, and there was no reason for what they did."
Estes added, however, the vandalism has made the Oxford Fire Department's 16 firefighters more dedicated than ever to protect the community, setback or not.
"We're all paying closer attention to our pagers these days, and are ready to respond as fast as possible," Estes said.