Firefighters at a south side fire station are accustomed to dealing with smoke and flames, but may have averted an in-house emergency on Wednesday when their sleeping quarters were hit by some sort of projectile, possibly a bullet.
"It's just a shock to us that something like that would happen," said Nick Cook, a firefighter of seven years.
Cook said someone on the mid-morning shift spotted glass on the floor of the bunkhouse, in the 1400 block of East 67th Street of Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood. The firefighteres got busy and forgot about the glass until making a startling discovery later in the day.
"We pulled the shade. There we saw the bullet hole," said Cook. "It was right below three different bunks. Firemen could have been sitting there. The bunk room is made of different cinder block walls. A bullet could have ricocheted and hit anywhere in that entire bunk room."
No one was in the bunk room when it happened. Outside the firehouse, however, are two unmistakable marks. One goes right through the glass and into the sleeping area. Another just cracked a window.
Behind the firehouse is an empty field and several three-flat buildings.
Firefighters filed a report with Chicago police, who are now investigating the incident as a case of criminal property damage. There was no obvious damage inside the firehouse to the ceiling or any walls and no bullet or slug was found inside.
Officially, authorities aren't classifying what the object was that went through the window, calling it only a "projectile."
"What gets me is [that] people come there. Kids come there. We do tours. They think they're safe when they come to the firehouse," said Cook. "It's a pillar of the community. It's a safe haven for some people, and something like this has to happen.
The Woodlawn firehouse ranks as one of the city's busiest and is still dealing with the loss of a colleague. In December 2010, firefighter Edward Stringer was killed while fighting a fire at an abandoned building when the roof collapsed.
Cook, a third-generation firefighter, said he won' let the incident won't slow him nor his fellow firefighters down. But he said it underscores the dangers firefighters face these days go beyond just smoke and flames.
"We're out there to help you. We're out there to risk our lives to save yours," he said.