Brenna Hancock...Bamberg County Fire Coordinator
Written by Advertizer-Herald   

Bamberg County has nine fire departments and one substation which includes the Bamberg Fire Department, Colston Fire Department, Denmark Fire Department, Clear Pond Fire Department, Govan Fire Department, Hunterís Chapel Fire Department, Little Swamp Fire Department, Olar Fire Department, Ehrhardt Fire Department, and Edisto Substation, which is operated by the Hunters Chapel Fire Department. We have a total of 43 fire apparatus and a total of 169 active firefighters. Of the 169 members, 16% are female and 7% are black. The total calls for all departments in 2011 including mutual and automatic aid calls was 654.

We have formal mutual aid agreements with the SC State Emergency Mobilization and SC Forestry Division. Our county fire service has mutual aid agreements with the surrounding counties of Allendale, Colleton, Orangeburg, and Barnwell.

The countyís fire service budget for the nine departments is $246,000 which is collected by a fire tax. That amount is split between nine fire departments for utilities, fuel, truck maintenance, equipment maintenance, insurance, workers compensation, training, and supplies. There is no money in our budget for truck purchases, equipment purchases, or paid personnel. On top of our already slim budget, our budget was recently cut by 7%. With budget cuts, our leaders would rather put more financial focus on other programs that do not include the fire service.

The nine fire chiefs, nine assistant chiefs, 20 officers, and 131 firefighters and auxiliary members are volunteers. These dedicated, hard working men and women have regular jobs and they have families. When there is a call, they respond without asking for anything in return. Iíve watched many of them leave a scene just in time to go home and take a shower then make it to their regular job on time. It takes a special person to volunteer their time, especially with a job that could cost them their lives. These people would give you the shirt off their backs. All they ask for is the proper equipment to serve their communities safely and efficiently.

A firefighterís job isnít only about fighting fires. Firefighters assist with clearing the roadway after a windstorm, report downed power lines and wait for the electric company to arrive, they assist the SC Forestry Division with wildfires, and they assist the rescue squad by providing lifting assistance, first aid, and CPR. Some members provide first responder services and occasionally, volunteer firefighters are asked to drive ambulances to hospitals. Our firefighters have provided search and rescue for missing persons, responded to vehicle accidents, they teach fire prevention, and have even rescued animals from hazardous situations. Thereís so much more responsibilities a firefighter has these days and ours do it without asking for anything in return. The very least we could do it provide them with the proper equipment to save our citizensí lives and property.