Colleton County Fire-Rescue

Department History

1968 – 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 Walterboro and the Town of Williams operated fire departments in Colleton County. The municipality of Walterboro 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 Pond and Hendersonville . In the meantime, the towns of Edisto 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.

1969 - Jacksonboro Community organizes a Fire Department and becomes District 2.

1971 - Town of Lodge establishes a Fire Department, is designated District 3.

1972 – Ruffin, Canadys, Green Pond Communities, as well as the Town of Smoaks organize fire departments.  They become Districts 4, 5, 6 and 7.

1974 – Hendersonville Community establishes a Fire Department and becomes District 8.

1976 – Town of Edisto Beach establishes a Fire Department (not part of Colleton Volunteer Fireman’s Association)

1977 – 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. 

1981 - Islandton Fire Department established. Cottageville’s Round O station is closed due to financial problems.

1983 – Maple Cane Fire Department organizes and separates from the Cottageville Fire Department.

1988 – Colleton Rural Fire Department – District 1 achieved ISO Class 7.

1989 – 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 County Government 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 Colleton County .

1992 – Neyles Fire Department established in the Neyles Community. Fee system is defeated by voters in the Hendersonville and Jonesville communities. Several stations joined together to purchase a repeater radio, while Station # 1 and/or EMS 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.

1994 – County Council abolishes all Fire Districts in the unincorporated areas and establishes Fire-Rescue.

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 Colleton County , 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 goals.

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 Town of Williams 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 stations.

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 Colleton County 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.

County establishes Centralized Dispatch Center 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.

1995 – Under new management, Station 2 in Jacksonboro achieves ISO Class 5 for the Jacksonboro response area. Station # 22 in the Ritter Community was completed.

1996 – 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.

The 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 Cottageville is relocated to a new facility on Rehoboth Road . Station # 20 is constructed on Edisto Island in the unincorporated area.

1998 – 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 County Administrator the formula was right for many improvement throughout Colleton County . 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 plant on Klein Street . 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.

2000 – 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.

2002 - Technician Level Hazardous Materials Response Team Established

2003 – 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 EMS 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 Department.

2004 – County-wide ISO evaluation is completed and Fire-Rescue is assigned EMS duties.

The County operated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department was abolished and all functions were assigned to Fire-Rescue. Colleton County completed a countywide ISO evaluation during August with a follow up evaluation in March 2005. Fire-Rescue took over Fire Operations in the Town of Smoaks . 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.

2005 – 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. Colleton County 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. Bennetts Point remained Class 9. Fire-Rescue took over fire operations in the Town of Lodge .

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 to Bennetts Point and improve services to the south end of the County. 

2006 – 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 Williams.


2007 – More construction.

A 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.

2008 - 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 Endowment.  

2009 - 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 county.  

2010 - Added equipment, snow, and International Trauma Case of the Year Runner-Up

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.

2011 - Local Helicopter Availability, Four Alarm Fire, and September 11th Anniversary

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.

2012 - 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 conducted.

2013 - Added Stations 35 & 36, 800 MHz radio system upgrade, New Apparatus

This was an active year for the Department. Fire-Rescue took delivery of one new Engine, three new Tenders and two new ambulances in January. Emergency One and Wheeled Coach both displayed units at the Fire-Rescue East Conference held at Daytona Beach. FL. In February, Colleton County was notified by DHS that their SAFER Grant application had been approved. This badly needed grant allowed the County to staff Station # 13 in the south end of the county. Nine personnel were hired through March and April and began working in the Jonesville Community 1-July. The addition of the personnel, greatly improved response times for this rural area. The department completed construction on three new fire stations and renovations to Station # 2. Station # 36 near Grubers Crossroads was opened in May, followed shortly by a new Station # 13 in Jonesville on 1-July. The new Station # 13 was located on Lowcountry Highway at Hamilton Lane. Station # 35 on Round O Road at Ions Crossroads was opened in December. Long-time Fire-Rescue mechanic Jeff Howell passed away in August after a yearlong battle with cancer. It was a tragic loss for the County to lose such a dedicated employee. Firefighter Explorer Vitoria Dalton, was one of twenty young women selected from the US and Canada to attend a week long Firefighter Recruit School held in New Hampshire during July. In August, we sent two Companies to Florence County as part of a SC Firefighter Mobilization to assist with a large Industrial Fire which lasted several days. Fire-Rescue, the Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control migrated to an 800 MHz radio system. After the FCC mandated that all agencies narrowband their VHF and UHF radio systems in 2013, the changes rendered the County’s radios ineffective for the large area that was covered. Safety concerns and a reduced dispatching capabilities prompted quick action. County Administrator Kevin Griffin spearhead the replacement and County Council quickly approved the funding for improved communications. After much research, the County moved to the Statewide Palmetto 800 System. This required new consoles at the 9-1-1- Center and the replacement of all pagers, portable and mobile radios. With it came a price tag of 3.5 million dollars. The new system took nearly six months to implement and multiple classes to train personnel on the operations. In addition to improved, clear local communications, the Palmetto 800 System provided the ability for interoperability with many other agencies throughout the State. Fire-Rescue also began using CAD Page, an automated supplemental dispatching system, which sends dispatching information to personnel’s cell phones directly from the 9-1-1 Centers CAD. Colleton Medical Center celebrated 30 years of service at their location on Robertson Blvd. The community event was held on campus with Fire-Rescue, WPS and LifeNet in attendance. New pre-employment testing procedures were introduced, which included physical, practical and written evaluations. Fire-Rescue’s Training Division hosted the first Lowcountry Fire & EMS Training Weekend, which was a great success. They brought in many top instructors addressing topics on Fire and Emergency Medical training. Retired Fire Chief Ashton Syfrett completed his research project and book on the early history of the rural fire department in Colleton County. A digital copy of the book is on this website under Department History. Syfrett was instrumental in organizing fire service in the rural areas of Colleton County beginning in the late 1960s and served as the rural department’s first Fire Chief. His book chronicles the development, hurdles and achievements of the many volunteers who made the system work and laid the foundation for what the department has become today.  


2014 – Addition to Headquarters and Ice Storm

Firefighter-Paramedic Jordan Eaddy was discharged from a Charleston Hospital in January after an eight month battle with Cancer. After another eight months of home recovery and hard work, he was able to return to duty in December. Back to back ice storms two weeks apart in February, blanketed the Lowcountry knocking out power to most of the electrical grid in Colleton County. Over 22,000 of the 23,500 power customers were without power in freezing temperatures for nearly a week. At the onset, Fire-Rescue responded to over 150 responses within the first two hours of the second storm. Fire-Rescue received a Fire Prevention Grant from FM Global to purchase and install smoke alarms in homes. The grant was written by Deputy Fire Marshall Michael Banks. After 25 years serving South Carolina, SLED Arson Agent Frank Conrad retired. Conrad was instrumental in breaking an arson problem that existed in Colleton County in the late 1990s. Much through his efforts the department reduced structure fires by nearly 2/3s over a three year period. Former Islandton Fire Chief Everett Polk passed away after a long battle with Cancer. The County as well as the rest of the world made preparations for handling Ebola stricken patients. The effort involved new policies, training and protection equipment. In November, County voters passed a 1% sales tax capital projects referendum. One of the projects included water system upgrades and the installation of water lines and fire hydrants between the Towns of Lodge, Ruffin, Smoaks and Williams. A 14,000 sq.ft addition was constructed at Headquarters to house Logistics and expand office space. The new facility allowed Fire-Rescue to bring all supplies and equipment to one location as well as having bay space to outfit apparatus. The second annual Lowcountry Fire and EMS Training Weekend was held in Colleton County. Developed by Battalion Chief Scott Feather the two day seminar brought a variety of training topics to the area for emergency responders. Tragically the Department lost Volunteer Firefighter and Deputy Coroner Isaac Lavine in a traffic accident while he was returning from MUSC in the Coroner’s Van. At the request of the Fire-Rescue Commission, County Council unanimously approved officially naming the Mable T. Willis complex which houses Fire-Rescue Headquarters, Fleet Management, Road and Bridges, Purchasing and Engineering the Jefferson W. Howell Jr. Complex after Jeff Howell a Fire-Rescue mechanic who passed away in 2013.

2015 Station 34 Opens, MCI incident and Mutual Aid to Columbia and Georgetown County

Station # 34 on Pearce Road was opened in February, filling in a large response area. The new station brought hundreds of homes to within five road miles a fire station, thus saving many residents a substantial amount of money on their homeowners insurance. A team of firefighters won first place in the Chili Competition at the Southeastern Fire School held in Columbia in mid-March. A MCI incident involving an over-turned school bus sent 30 students to the hospital. No life threatening injuries occurred. Due to the major losses in revenues resulting in the closing and dismantling of the SCE&G power plant, Colleton County was forced to lay off a dozen positions. Fire-Rescue lost three Firefighter and one mechanic position due to the reductions. Retired Firefighter-Paramedic Elaine Harvey passed away after a long illness. Harvey served in Colleton County for many decades serving as a Paramedic, Supervisor, Instructor, Deputy Coroner and Firefighter-Paramedic. Her death was a great loss for the community. Through a Firefighter Mobilization request during Hurricane Joaquin, Fire-Rescue sent a Tender Strike Team to Columbia to assist during record flooding that paralyzed the State Capital and many counties in the center of the state. The storm washed away water mains, bridges and buildings as well as roads leaving devastation in its path. Colleton’s Team five Tender was assigned to shuttle water for 2-1/2 days at Palmetto Hospital as part of a larger water shuttle operation. During the first operational period, the CCFR tender strike team alone shuttled 270,00 gallons averaging 350 gallons per minute for 13 hours.  Other Colleton County Tenders were sent to Georgetown County and to staff a Columbia Richland Fire Station. Additional crews were called in to work local flooding as the Edisto River increased 6 feet over the flood stage. FEMA declared the county a disaster area following two weeks of flooding. The third Lowcountry Fire-EMS Weekend was conducted in the County. Over 175 participants attended the weekend training sessions and top name instructors from around the country provided some very informative classes.

2016 Ashepoo Plantation Fire, ISO Class 3, New Ambulances, Hurricane Matthew

Retired Volunteer Firefighter James Farish passed away in February. He served with Station #8 in Hendersonville for nearly four decades. Fire-Rescue hosted the annual Emergency Services Softball Tournament at the Recreation Center and raised $3,200 for the MUSC Burned Children’s Fund and the SC Children’s Charity. Firefighters worked a 75 acre woods fire in the 5300 block of Lowcountry Highway and the largest fire loss for 2016 occurred at Ashepoo Plantation on 09-March. The main house was undergoing a major remodeling. Workers reporting for work that morning found the smoldering remains of the structure valued at 1.6 million dollars. Charles Polk, a retired Firefighter with Station #15 passed away in April. Mr. Polk had served in Islandton for 3-1/2 decades. The Department lowered its ISO Classification to Class 3 in May. Former EMS Director Mike Garvin and Firefighter-Paramedic Elaine Harvey were added to the State EMS Memorial in May. Girl Scout Troop 294 prepared a meal for First Responders in appreciation for their work in the community. Fire-Rescue took delivery of three new ambulances mounted on Kenworth Chassis. This was the first major redesign of the units in 12 years. A new solid red color scheme was used on the patient compartment. The units were taller than the previous units, so Colleton Medical Center redesigned the ED. This involved moving the ambulance ramp to the back of the ED and renovation of the ED rooms. Fire-Rescue received a $225,000 AFG Grant to purchase new turnout gear. A second HazMat truck was placed in service. Hurricane Matthew graced the Lowcountry with a visit in October. Damage from the storm was wide spread, but Edisto Beach took the hardest hit with four feet of sand on Palmetto Road. Frankie Marsh from Station # 15 retired after 35 years of service. Marsh was one of the founding members of the Islandton Fire Dept in 1980. Former Asst. Chief Steve Thomas from Station # 8 passed away in December.

2017 –  New Helicopter Program, SWAT Training and Hurricane Response

Rice Patch Church in Islandton held a First Responder Appreciation Dinner at the Church on 30-April. Fire-Rescue members throughout Colleton and Hampton Counties attended. Due to many reasons Colleton Medical Center changed air medical providers in June. Several months of planning existed prior to the change and allowed for Fire-Rescue to partner with Med-Trans Corp to bring C.A.R.E. Flight to Walterboro. The acronym stands for Colleton Air Rescue Evac. Med-trans manages the base, provides the helicopter, mechanic, pilots and Flight Nurses. Fire-Rescue provides the Flight-Paramedics. Six Firefighter-Paramedics were sent to training with Med-Trans crews in Sioux City Iowa. The helicopter was placed in service in mid-June, greatly increasing the services provided to the community. An official ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication was held in November. The Aiken County Honor Guard, local dignitaries, Junius Frederick, Mark Garrick and Henry Ward also attended. Med-trans placed a new Bell 407GXP helicopter at the base, painted red and carrying a Maltese Cross on each side. The Bell 407 provides increase lifting capabilities over what was previously available. Two personnel completed Law Enforcement certification at the SC Criminal Justice Academy. Both serve on the Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team as Tactical Medics. Colleton County transitioned to the P25 standard for the 800 MHz radio system and secured all of the radios to reduce monitoring by unauthorized personnel. Hurricane Irma impacted Colleton County with flooding and tree damage. Eight Firefighters completed the PADI Open Water Diver Training. Fire-Rescue held its first countywide Christmas and awards dinner at the Elks Lodge.

2018 – Two major fires, Hurricane responses, EMD Responsibilities, Fire Bond and new Apparatus

Colleton County and much of the State were immobilized by Winter Storm Grayson which began on 4-January. The area came to a standstill for four days with icy roads, loss of power and blocked highways. One of the largest fires the department had responded to occurred on 27-February when the 75-year-old former Cottageville School was found burning a little after daybreak. The fire originated in the gym building which was well involved when units arrived. The fire had already spread to the adjacent school building. The incident went to four alarms. Over 75 County firefighters spent the entire day extinguishing the fire. The building was used for storage and was not occupied. Firefighters protected the two other buildings on the site which were used as the Town Hall, Municipal Court and Police Station. Fire-Rescue hosted the Tactical Combat Causality Course (TCCC) which had attendance from several outside agencies. In February, Fire-Rescue was assigned the Emergency Management Duties for the County, making it a division within Fire-Rescue. The entire program was revamped with a new and updated Emergency Operations Plan, new training for personnel, reestablished support network and modifications to the Emergency Operations Center. The local Girl Scouts troop donated cookies to Firefighters. Following Hurricane Florence which caused wide spread devastation throughout SC, Fire-Rescue deployed resources to several Counties to assist in relief efforts. A staffed Medic unit was provided to Horry County for a period of two weeks and three staffed Tenders were deployed to North Myrtle Beach for a week. A search and rescue boat team was sent to Georgetown City which consisted of three personnel from Fire-Rescue and three from the Sheriff’s Office. A 28,000 square foot home located at the old Myrtle Grove Plantation was destroyed in an evening fire in September. Access problems prevented units reaching the building which allowed the fire to grow. Units were on the scene for 13 hours. The fire went to three alarms and mutual aid was provided by the Sheldon Fire Department. Fire-Rescue began providing bleeding control (BCON) and active shooter training to the local schools in conjunction with the School District. Fire-Rescue secured a grant to purchase additional bleeding control kits for each school to supplement those purchased by the School District. Med Trans Corporation provided Thanksgiving Dinner to the on-duty crews working Thanksgiving Day. Long time Engineer-EMT Chuck Moyer retired from the department after 20 years of service at the end of December. A new mid-mount E-One Ladder truck replaced the 30 year old Ladder 19 and a new E-One HazMat truck replaced the older HazMat 19. County Council established a new Ordinance to govern the Fire-Rescue District, encompassing many of its new responsibilities. They also provided a six million dollar improvements bond to purchase apparatus, equipment and modify several stations.

2019 – Station Renovations Planned, Hurricane Dorian, Uniform Changes, Whole Blood Pilot Project Approval

The Department lost longtime member, Volunteer Lieutenant Eugene Brown from Station 12 in June. Lt. Brown served the County as a Volunteer Firefighter for nearly 30 years. His friendly demeanor and problem-solving skills will be greatly missed. Retired Firefighter Buddy Murdaugh from Station # 15, who helped establish Station # 15 in 1981, also passed away. Firefighter-EMT James Varnadoe retired from the department on 31-December. After a year of work and meetings in Columbia, Fire-Rescue was approved in December by SCDHEC to conduct a pilot project to carry whole blood on the department’s ambulances. In preparation for carrying Whole Blood, Fire-Rescue conducted a Blood Drive in coordination with the area Law Enforcement Agencies during October (Guns and Hoses), to have people donate blood to the Blood Connection, Fire-Rescue’s Blood supplier. Volunteer Paramedic Angie Stewart from Station # 15 was named SC Paramedic of the Year. Firefighter-Paramedics Kristen Dias, Chris Dukes and Sam Potts were recognized by MUSC for the successful resuscitation of a traumatic pediatric arrest. Emergency power was added to Stations #18 and #20 with the installation of new generators and transfer switches. Fire-Rescue personnel topped all previous years collecting funds for the Carolina Children’s Charity. Firefighters spent two weeks “Filling the Boot” at local businesses and raised $16,800 to needy children and their families. Fire-Rescue personnel continued to conduct classes for the School District and private schools to train all teachers and Bus Drivers how to respond during an active shooter incident and how to control bleeding. Fire-Rescue changed the Class C work uniform to a dark navy-blue polo style shirt in an effort to shift away from the Law Enforcement appearance. The Class A and B uniforms remained the same. Several staff vehicles were replaced with newer pickup trucks. This allowed the agency to replace two older Brush Trucks and return the military surplus pickup trucks to the Forestry Commission. FM Global awarded Fire-Rescue a $4,810 grant to purchase smoke alarms for needy individuals in the county. Through the 2018 Fire Bond, plans for renovations at Stations 1,7, 15, and 26 were finalized. The actual building projects will be completed in 2020. The Dispatch Center upgraded the Computer Aided Dispatch software, replacing the 2-1/2 decades old system that was in place. September brought Hurricane Dorian to South Carolina. The storm was difficult to predict and changed course multiple times. The EOC was activated for a week pre and post storm and the shelter at the High School was open over a week. Luckily, the County suffered only minor damage as the storm stayed off the coast. Improvements for the EOC continued throughout the year, including communications upgrades, video live streaming and improved coordination between ESFs. Firefighter-EMTs Cody Hutto, Connor Hutto, Patrick Sick and Michael Hartley successfully completed Paramedic training at Rescue Training in Savannah on 28-August. Crews were sent as mutual aid to Orangeburg to assist with a technical rescue at large grain bin on 25-July.

2020 – Station Additions, Blood Project, Covid-19, Virtual Meetings and Changes to Everyday Life

What a year. 2020 started out fairly normal and with the word of a strange virus strain spreading to many parts of the world from China. Cases of the deadly disease began showing up in the US and in the second quarter the States began placing many restrictions on everyday life. Quarantines, face masks, restaurant closures, travel restrictions, school closings, church closings, beach closures, hospital diversions, ventilators shortages, high death tolls, PPE shortages and economic struggles, to name a few continued throughout the year as most of the world was learning about this new disease and how to cope with it. The industry of virtual meetings benefited greatly as classes stopped, conferences ceased, some states restricted entry and exit. It was a very different reality for everyone. Medical workers, including pre-hospital responders, were now faced with an invisible threat which was named the Covid-19 virus. The emergency responses didn’t stop, so we all had to greatly modify the way we provided service and trained to improve our skills. As we enter 2021, not much of that has changed, but vaccine distribution is ramping up, so it is hopeful the impact of the vaccines will be positive and life can return to normal sometime in 2021. Construction began on additions to Station # 7 and Station # 15. The Blood Project, which Chief Campbell worked so hard on obtaining during 2019, was started in March of 2020. Whole Blood was placed on Medic 1, Medic 9, Medic 19 and Medic 26. All full and part time staff we trained on the administration and the appropriate equipment that was purchased to give the product. With the Covid pandemic, we saw a big change in the types of responses and many trauma cases decreased, so the use of the Whole Blood was not as frequent as we expected. However, our Firefighter-Paramedics did administer the products on several severe trauma cases with positive results. The logistical side of carrying the product in the prehospital arena proved challenging, but we have been working through it to show that it is a good treatment plan to save lives. We were proud of Deputy Chief Dr. Greene who was named EMD Director of the Year by his Emergency Management peers at the SCEMA Conference in early 2020. Chief Greene turned the County Emergency Management Department around, when it was made a Division of Fire-Rescue in 2018. Colleton County and several surrounding Counties were hit by an outbreak of Tornadoes on the morning of 13-April. One local woman died from injuries she sustained when a tree fell on her house trapping her and a small child. The child was rescued by Firefighter-Paramedics and luckily suffered only minor injuries. Due to the tornado damage, an earthen dam broke a few days later flooding Hendersonville Hwy with over an estimated 14 million gallons of water. The highway was closed for most of the morning until the water flowed into Ivanhoe Creek. SCDOT crews work for several days rebuilding the shoulders on the highway. In May, a construction crew unearthed a World War 2 era explosive at the Lowcountry Regional Airport. The facility was used as a military base during World War 2. The Charleston County Bomb Squad responded to handle the ordinance. The County took delivery of three new pumpers from E-One in June. Two new ambulances were also delivered from Wheeled Coach in August. Fire Prevention in the schools was conducted virtually in 2020. Fire Marshal Michael Banks and retired Fire Marshal Richard Sheffield developed a fire prevention and safety video which was distributed to the area schools to take the place of In-person instruction. Sadly, the department lost Firefighter Marquious Williams to the Covid virus in November. He worked full time at the Detention Center and will be missed. December also brought grievance as we learned of the tragic death of Firefighter Explorer Matthew Thornton in an auto accident in Dorchester County. Thornton was very active and had a promising future in the Fire Service. He too will be greatly missed. The annual Christmas Dinner and Awards Ceremony was canceled in December. The Awards were distributed to the Stations and the announcements were handed virtually. Captain Jack Wimberly was named Firefighter of the Year and Captain Michael Rohaus was named Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. 

2021 – EMD Agency of the Year, Station Improvements, the Continuance of Covid-19

It was hoped that the Covid-19 virus spread would subside during 2021. Vaccines were readily available, but positive cases spiked mid-year with the introduction of a new variant, Delta, then again during the summer. Another new highly contagious variant, Omicron, surfaced in late 2021 and the positive cases quadrupled in December, setting new records daily in SC, across the US and throughout the world. Fire-Rescue and our CERT Members set up and/or assisted with many Covid Vaccination Clinics throughout the County. So, it looked like not much would change regarding the Covid virus as we start 2022 and life didn’t get back to normal in 2021. The addition and remodel of Station 15 was completed this year. The facility turned our nice and is a great addition to the Islandton Community. Improvements at Station 1 began with the addition of bedrooms and a remodel of the existing living quarters as well. There were many delays due to supply chain problems, but it is hoped the project will be completed in early 2022. Engine 26 which was heavily damaged when it was struck by a car on I-95 on 02-January was out of service all year, mainly due to supply chain issues, as parts for almost everything were difficult to find. County Council approved a lease purchase plan in August which included four new ambulances for Fire-Rescue. This will allow the department to finally replace the remaining troublesome International chassis Ambulances remaining in the fleet. Three new 3000-gallon Tenders were also included. The County Council approved a 2022 Fire Bond in December. The proceeds will be used to order six pumpers, replace Stations 6 and 12 and remodel Station 26. In April, Fire-Rescue and the EMD Division participated in the Statewide Disaster Drill. Colleton County’s portion took place at the Balchem Plant in Green Pond and the scenario fit into the overall State Disaster Drill. Also in April, Fire-Rescue was named the EMD Agency of the Year. This was possible by tremendous support from County Council and all of our Emergency Service Function Partners, Deputy Chief Greene and the many staff members who put in countless hours to make the many improvements. Heavy rain falls on 28-July caused problems throughout the Lowcountry Region. The area received 7-10 inches of rain over a 3-hour period which resulted in heavy local flooding. A forty-foot section of Hendersonville Hwy. washed out causing the road to be detoured for several months. Local businesses were flooded and many roads were closed for several days. Fire-Rescue received approval of the Blood Administration Pilot Project which also resulted in a change in the scope of Practice for Paramedics in SC. The State DHEC Medical Control Committee approved the changes in late 2021 allowing any SC EMS Agency the ability to carry and administer whole blood in the field. Sadly, we lost one of the biggest Fire Service Advocates in the County in August. Judge Richard Wood, who helped bring Fire Service in the southern portion of the County in the early 1970s and served as a Volunteer Firefighter for nearly 50 years, passed away. He was a friend to many, supported emergency services and made untold numerous contributions to County operations. Retired Station 13 Volunteer Fire Captain Thomas Williams also passed away in October at the age of 91. He had served as the Fire Chief of the Intercommunity Volunteer Fire Dept stationed in Jonesville until it became Station 13 under Fire-Rescue. We all are very proud of Volunteer Medical Responder RN Melissa (Missy) Feather PhD, who was named the CNO at Colleton Medical Center in August. Fire Prevention in the schools was conducted virtually again this year due to Covid concerns. On 22-October, Fire-Rescue responded to a fatal single engine plane crash near Canadys. The pilot survived and was transported to a Trauma Center, however the passenger perished. Fire-Rescue implemented the Code Red and IPAWS public alert systems at the end of 2021. The RUOK Program was also restarted and conducted jointly with the Sheriff’s Office. The annual Awards Dinner was canceled again this year due to Covid. The awards were presented virtually. Captain Ethan Shieder was named Volunteer Firefighter of the year and Captain Alex Koontz was named career Firefighter of the year. 

2022 – SC EMS Large Agency of the Year, Station Improvements

Engine 26 returned from Alabama after a year in the repair shop. It received substantial damage after being struck by a car on I-95 in January of 2021. Retired Firefighter Osgood (OD) Murdaugh from Station 15 passed away in January after a long illness. After long anticipation, Henry Weber was born on 9-January. The Prevention Division and CERT began conducting Smoke Alarm Blitzes in neighborhoods. These were conducted throughout the year, resulting in Firefighters and CERT members installing hundreds of smoke alarms in homes. Firefighter-EMT Noah Feather and his father B/C Scott Feather suffered burns during a rescue attempt in a residence off of Gadsden Loop. A Polaris Ranger was placed in service to increase our ability to operate off road. The SCEMS Network awarded Fire-Rescue the EMS Large System of the year at the State EMS Symposium in March for the Blood Administration Project. Dry Dive Suits were added to the Dive Team expanding the capabilities of the team to operate in cold water environments. A handheld sonar device was also added to the Dive Team to assist in locating submerged victims. CERT member Kimberly Blankenship passed away suddenly after a short illness. Fire-Rescue was awarded the Fire Safe Community designation from the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Battalion Chief Scott Feather was the runner up for the International Association of Fire Chiefs Training Officer of the Year award. Hurricane Ian caused relatively minor damage in the County when it hit the coast in September. Also, in September, Fire-Rescue began staffing Engine 9 on a 24-hour basis. Fire-Rescue hosted the first “Mile in Our Boots” Clinician Academy at Station 19. This three-day, in-depth course was designed to allow clinicians to experience what First Responders do in real life. It was coordinated locally by Firefighter-Paramedic Angie Stewart who serves on the SC FAST Team. Firefighter-Paramedics Frank Ptacin, Kayla Katt and Alexander Begin joined the CARE Flight team as flight paramedics. Renovations at Station # 1 were finally completed after many delays related to Covid. Improvements at Station 1 included the addition of bedrooms and a remodel of the existing living quarters. The continuation of the 1% sales tax was approved by voters. Included in the projects was the construction of a new Emergency Operations Center. Our EM Division received a mobile morgue trailer through DHEC, which was placed at the Coroner’s Office. Toward the end of the year, we made arrangements to transport STEMI patients to the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Cath Lab. This endeavor will reduce transport and treatment times for citizens living in the southern portions of Colleton County. Fire-Rescue was featured in the State EMS Associations first magazine issue. The annual Christmas Dinner was resumed and held at the Middle School. Many awards were presented. Steve Pelton was named Volunteer Firefighter of the year and Captain Jack Wimberly was named career Firefighter of the year.