Colleton County Fire-Rescue
– Start of Rural Fire Protection in Colleton County
Rural fire protection in
Colleton County began in late 1968 by a small group of men who met the challenge to serve
the community. Prior to this year, only the City of
and the Town of
operated fire departments in
County. The municipality
discontinued responding to emergencies outside of its municipal limits on
October 1, 1966, leaving rural residents without fire protection. Lacking
a funding mechanism, the group converted a donated 800-gallon school bus
fuel tanker truck into a fire truck and began responding to calls.
Incorporated as the Colleton Volunteer Fireman’s Association, the
organization developed the groundwork for fire service improvements
throughout the rural community. Through the diligent efforts of the men
and the women’s auxiliary, multiple fundraisers were conducted.
Volunteer firefighter’s pooled their own money to refuel their truck
after fire calls and what little equipment they could muster was mostly
donated. The organization purchased its first real fire engine in 1969
from the W.S. Darley Company.
The era of the converted school bus
tanker thrived through the late 1970s with the donated equipment making
its way into several communities. The Colleton Volunteer Fireman’s
Association established substations in Jacksonboro, Ruffin, Canadys, Green
. In the meantime, the towns of
Beach, Lodge and Smoaks established fire departments and responded to calls in
the surrounding rural communities.
The Association did not survive the 1980’s as a
countywide group. Due to a lack of funding, many stations could not operate
or the groups incorporated individually and began operating independently.
Several new fire departments developed to cover the areas of Cottageville,
Islandton, Jonesville, Maple Cane, Springtown and Neyles in the early
1980’s to early 1990’s. The Colleton Rural Fire Department maintained
the incorporation of the Volunteer Fireman’s Association until 1994. The
local government did not provide funding for the rural fire departments.
Most operated from donations, memberships or fundraisers.
- Jacksonboro Community organizes a Fire Department and becomes District
establishes a Fire Department, is designated District 3.
– Ruffin, Canadys, Green Pond Communities, as well as the Town of
organize fire departments. They become Districts 4, 5, 6 and 7.
– Hendersonville Community establishes a Fire Department and becomes
– Town of
Beach establishes a Fire Department (not part of Colleton Volunteer
– Cottageville Community organizes a Fire Department and incorporates
separate from the Colleton Volunteer Fireman’s Association. Eventually
establishes substations in Round O and the Maple Cane Area.
Islandton Fire Department established. Cottageville’s Round O station is
closed due to financial problems.
– Maple Cane Fire Department organizes and separates from the
Cottageville Fire Department.
– Colleton Rural Fire Department – District 1 achieved ISO Class 7.
– Fee System established.
Under the membership system, only persons who purchased a membership
received service from the fire station in their community. Several homes
burned due to residents not being a member of their fire department.
This created much public outcry. With the local government still not
wishing to fund or operate a fire department a new system was put in
place to help finance the local fire stations. Voters within the fire
response areas had to actually approve of an annual fee being charged on
their tax bill. The
collected the money from the homeowner and passed it along to the fire
department. Several areas approved of the system and many stations were
able to have a small, but stable source of income.
Under the fee
system, stations in heavier populated areas obviously collected more
funds than those in sparsely populated areas. After several years some
stations progressed more rapidly than others and were able to upgrade
equipment and apparatus. Others were still barely able to make ends
meet. Several stations remained on the membership system, due to voters
not approving the fee system in their communities. Fire protection
varied greatly from community to community and was still non-existent in
many areas of
– Neyles Fire Department established in the Neyles Community. Fee system is
defeated by voters in the
and Jonesville communities. Several stations
joined together to purchase a repeater radio, while Station # 1 and/or
personnel served as dispatcher. A single seven digit number was established for
the public to report a fire.
1993 – The
Intercommunity Development Organization is recognized by local government as an
operating Fire Department in the southern area of the County. Citizens in the
Ruffin Community approve the Fee System to help fund their fire department.
Hendersonville Fire Department nearly folds due to financial woes.
County Council abolishes all Fire Districts in the unincorporated areas and
After several years of discussions, in a bold endeavor by the Colleton County
Council, on January 1, 1994 all Fire Service Organizations operating in the
unincorporated areas of
, including the volunteer Rescue Squad were abolished and integrated into one
County operated Fire-Rescue District. The new organization was called
Fire-Rescue. A special purpose taxing district was establish to fund the
operations. Despite a controversial and shaky beginning, the organization went
right to work to map out the future improvements for the County’s Emergency
Services. A five member Commission was established to govern and oversee the
development and operations of the new organization. The Commission established
goals and involved personnel from all levels to form committees to reach those
A ten-year plan was
developed, and then set in place to improve emergency responses in all areas
of the unincorporated County. Improvement of equipment and the reduction of
the ISO rating, including insurance premiums for residents, was a top
priority. Contracts were developed with the municipalities of Lodge and Smoaks
to provide coverage to rural residents outside of their corporate limits. The
declined to become part of the system. The Town of Edisto Beach was already
providing Fire Services for the unincorporated areas of Edisto Island under a
separate contract with County Council, which remains in effect today.
The 10-year plan was updated annually. The primary goals were to upgrade and
standardize equipment, apparatus, protective gear for firefighters and
construct new stations to extend coverage for rural residents. County Council
requested that a standardized ISO rating of 7 be achieved for all fire
A Fire Coordinator’s position was established, but not funded. This
responsibility then fell to the Emergency Preparedness Director, who assisted
the Commission and acted as a liaison to the rural Fire Stations.
An accident that involved two rural department Engines, forced the new
Commission to purchase a new replacement Engine much earlier than planned.
Emergency One of Ocala Florida was selected to build the new truck. An
existing Committee of Firefighters developed the specifications, which became
the basic design for standardizing apparatus in
for the next 12 years. Station # 2 in the Jacksonboro Community is reorganized
with a new volunteer group after the Fire Chief and a hand full of volunteers
quit in protest of the countywide system.
at Sheriff’s Office and begins Basic 9-1-1 emergency telephone service.
Addressing and road naming is started in the unincorporated areas of the
County to build the foundation for Enhanced 9-1-1 Service.
– Under new management, Station 2 in Jacksonboro achieves ISO Class 5 for the
Jacksonboro response area. Station # 22 in the Ritter Community was completed.
– Commission hires a part-time Fire Chief and Administrative Manager.
As the agency began to grow, the management responsibilities and
record keeping increased. The Fire-Rescue Commission hired a part-time
Fire Chief and Administrative Clerk to assist with the daily operations.
Offices were moved from Emergency Preparedness and placed in two rooms
at the Sheriff’s Department. Each individual station continued to
handle their own operations, building maintenance and manage their
volunteer staff. Stations submitted budgets annually and were required
to submit monthly expenditure reports.
Equipment Committee recommended the purchase of a 3000-gallon capacity
tanker truck. Against the recommendations of the County’s consultant,
ISO Field Representative and some area Fire Officers, the first
3000-gallon tanker was ordered in 1996. Both the new Engine and Tanker were
built on an International Chassis, as the department mapped out the
standardization of its new fleet.
Station # 18 at Bells Crossroads and Station # 21
at Bennett’s Point are completed. Station # 9 in the Town of
is relocated to a new facility on
. Station # 20 is constructed on
in the unincorporated area.
First Full-time Staff were hired. Station 6 and Station 22 achieved ISO Class 6
for the Green Pond and Ritter response areas.
For the first time, County Council supported hiring paid firefighters
for the Fire-Rescue Commission. The Commission was approved to hire a full-time
Training Officer, Mechanic and five firefighters who could work during the day
when volunteer firefighters were working their full-time jobs. Four
firefighters, who had remained as employees of the abolished fire district,
became full-time county staff as well.
With the new mechanic on
board, the Fleet Management program was greatly improved, to include regular
maintenance and standardization of vehicles/apparatus. Uniform servicing of
apparatus was begun and vehicle repairs and maintenance were no longer
outsourced, but quickly and efficiently performed in house. Fire Reports and
Training Records were now compiled at a central location and the County began
reporting to NFIRS with County-wide fire data.
Station # 23 in the Ashton Community is completed. Road naming,
addressing and Enhanced 9-1-1 Project completed.
1999 - Hired
full-time Director, Administrative Manager, Fire Marshal/Inspector and moved to
a larger facility on
West Washington Street
. Station 10 and 15 achieved ISO Class 6 for the Islandton response area.
The Fire-Rescue Commission changed the part-time employees to full-time
staffers in January and April of 1999. With a new progressive County Council
seated and the employment of an innovative new
the formula was right for many improvement throughout
. Fire-Rescue benefited greatly from the new team. With industrial development
being sought, most people understood new industries were not going to locate
in a community with high insurance premiums. The unincorporated Walterboro
area had grown rapidly during the last 1-1/2 decades and the single fire
station serving the area had experienced a four-fold increase in call volume.
The Fire-Rescue Commission had a good plan in place to address the issues, but
lacked the funding for implementation. The Council began issuing Fire Service
improvement bonds over several years to address the needs.
Council purchased the former Rural Electric Cooperative offices and physical
. Fire-Rescue was relocated to the lower floors, while a Magistrate’s Office
was placed upstairs. The facility provided Fire-Rescue with 5000 square feet
of office space, which included a supply room, training area, maintenance bay
and several outside storage buildings.
Incentives were begun for
Firefighters who achieved Emergency Medical Technician Training in an effort
to improve services to the community.
Hired additional staff members
With the growing fleet, preventive maintenance and the care of aging
apparatus, one mechanic could not keep up with the work. An additional
full-time mechanic was hired to assist with the Fleet Management Program. One
additional daytime firefighter was added to improve daytime responses. Four
personnel obtained Paramedic Certification.
Technician Level Hazardous Materials Response Team Established
– Continued improvements.
The construction of 5 new fire stations was approved by County Council.
Six additional full-time firefighters were hired. The Commission
replaced the 1957 American LaFrance Ladder Truck with a refurbished
95’ E-One Aerial Platform. A third mechanic was hired and Fire-Rescue
began servicing the County’s
vehicles. Headquarters was moved into a recently purchased facility on
16 acres at
113 Mable T. Willis Blvd. south
of Walterboro. This large facility was shared with the County Public Works
– County-wide ISO evaluation is completed and
Fire-Rescue is assigned
The County operated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department was
abolished and all functions were assigned to Fire-Rescue.
completed a countywide ISO evaluation during August with a follow up
evaluation in March 2005. Fire-Rescue took over Fire Operations in the
. All full-time employees were cross-trained in firefighting and
emergency medical duties.
After many years of delays, Fire Station # 19 in the Industrial Park
(north Walterboro) was completed. Fire Station 24 in the Foxfield
Subdivision (east Walterboro), Fire Station # 25 in the White Hall
Community and Fire Station # 26 on Mount Carmel Road (west Walterboro)
were completed. Station # 1 was relocated to a new facility on
Mable T. Willis Blvd
(south Walterboro), next to Headquarters. With the assignment of the
Emergency Medical duties, the former Station # 1 was renumbered,
renovated and operated in downtown Walterboro as Station # 27 and served
as an ambulance station.
– Countywide ISO Rating become effective.
The countywide ISO rating was received as Class 4 for all structures
located within 5 miles of a county fire station.
had the distinction as being the largest Class 4 fire department in US.
The rating excluded the Bennetts Point Community due to the distances
involved in reaching the area.
remained Class 9. Fire-Rescue took over fire operations in the Town of
Two additional fire stations were constructed in the Western Cane Branch
area and Bonnie Doone areas. Additional full-time staff and an ALS
ambulance were added to Fire Station # 6 in Green Pond. The County
purchased a second 95’ E-One Aerial Platform to address issues related
and improve services to the south end of the County.
– Land acquired for a new station on
Bennetts Point Road
After nearly five years of trying to locate property on Bennetts Point
Road, Mr. Johnny Miley asked the Donnelley Family (owners of Ashepoo
Plantation) to donate two acres of land for the purpose of building a
fire station in the remote location. Construction was begun on the
station to tie the Bennetts Point Coverage area to the Green Pond
coverage area. Fire-Rescue takes over fire operations in the Town of
– More construction.
large building addition was added to Headquarters’
Mable T. Willis Blvd.
location. Fire-Station # 28 in the 9000 block of
Bennetts Point Road
was completed. ISO evaluates the Bennetts Point Fire Improvements and the
operations in the Town of Williams.
County Council approved a four million dollar Fire Service Improvements Bond
for the 2008 Budget Cycle. Two additional stations were planned, with
additions to two current facilities. Several pieces of apparatus were planned
to be replaced. Three additional full-time Firefighter-Paramedic positions and
a new Training Position were approved.
Land acquired for three new stations and additional apparatus purchased
Fire-Rescue purchases E-ONE Titan III Aircraft
Rescue Firefighting Vehicle to serve the growing Lowcountry Regional
Airport. Additionally, two E-ONE Typhoon custom cab 2000 gpm
engines were added to the fleet. Land in the Hickory Hill, Sidneys,
and Ions Crossroads areas was purchased with plans to add stations in
the near future. Reporting databases were upgraded, patient care
reporting software changes were implemented, and Fire-Rescue began
participating in the statewide NEMSIS reporting coordinated by the Duke
Land acquired and Station 31 opens at Breland Hill
Colleton County was unable to establish a lease
agreement for the existing Station 11. Station 11's quarters were
moved to a temporary building on Rehoboth Road near Augusta
Highway. Land was acquired to build a new Station 11 on Augusta
Higway at Sidneys Road (Gruber's Crossroads). Station 31 was
opened on Lowcountry Highway on Breland Hill. A new heavy rescue
was placed at Station 1 which allowed the movement of the 2001 heavy
rescue to Station 18. This increased the reach of the valuable
services provided by these heavy rescues. In a cooperative
agreement with Colleton Medical Center, Colleton County Council approved
adding a seventh ALS ambulance which was placed at Station 26. Six
additional personnel were added to staff the unit. This ambulance was
designated to begin transporting inter-facility patients from Colleton
Medical Center and handle 9-1-1 calls in the northwest areas of the
Added equipment, snow, and International Trauma Case of the Year
Due to increased emergency
medical call volume, the inter-facility transfers for the hospital,
which began in November 2009, had to be curtailed. Fire-Rescue
continued to assist the Emergency Department with acute emergency
transfers such as critical traumatic injuries, cardiac patients or
serious strokes when a medical helicopter was not available. February
12th brought an unseasonable snow storm to the area,
dropping six inches of snow on the Lowcountry, paralyzing many
communities. The electrical grid suffered greatly, with widespread
downed power lines and outages. Fire-Rescue added Lucas2 Chest
Compression Devices to all the agencies’ ambulances, which resulted
in a 7% increase in the return of spontaneous circulation in Cardiac
Arrest patients. At the same time, the remaining Zoll medical
equipment, including AEDs and Cardiac Monitors were replaced with
Physio-Control LifePak 12 Defibrillator-Monitors and LifePak1000 AEDs.
In November, Colleton Firefighters in Engine 19, staffed a
Richland-Columbia Fire Station while the home department attended the
funeral of Firefighter Chance Zobel who was killed in the line of
duty. Also in November, two members representing the department
attended the ITLS Conference in Las Vegas NV, winning second place in
the International ITLS trauma case of the year. Colleton was beat out
by Japanese Firefighters and medical crews.
Local Helicopter Availability, Four Alarm Fire, and September 11th
After several years of hard work, in a joint
effort with Colleton Medical Center, Air Methods Corporation agreed to
place a medical helicopter in Colleton County. The unit was based at
Colleton Medical Center, with the crew residing on campus. Fire-Rescue
provided mutual aid through the SC Firefighter Mobilization for a
large fire in the Francis Marion Forest, assisting Awendaw and other
Charleston County Fire Departments. Following a lightning strike, the
department responded to a four alarm structure fire at the Great Swamp
Baptist Church in southern Colleton County. Fire units were on the
scene for over ten hours, with a seventeen Tenders shuttling water
through the night. On September 11, a ten anniversary ceremony was
held at Station 19 in remembrance of the 9-11 tragedies. In December,
all remaining dual line hydraulic rescue tools were upgraded to
Holmatro Core Technology, standardizing the equipment department wide.
Added Stations, Added Services, New Equipment
County Council approved the issuance of a 6.4
million dollar Fire Improvements Bond which allowed for many upgrades
for Fire-Rescue during 2012. Construction on the Grubers Crossroads
and Sidneys Crossroads Fire stations was begun, as well as the
replacement building for Station # 13. All three of those projects
were delayed from a previous construction project that was held up
over some engineering issues. All 300 SCBAs were replaced with state
of the art Scott NXG7, 4500 psi air packs, featuring integrated PASS
Devices, RIT connections and the SIMS accountability system. The
department had some SCBA equipment that dated back to the mid 1980s,
with most units being over 15 years in age. At the request of Edisto
Beach, Colleton County submitted a proposal to assume fire suppression
duties on Edisto Island, which was ultimately declined by the Town
Council. Trench rescue equipment was purchased and training was