When North Columbia Fire and Rescue Chief Tom McFarland takes off toward a fire, it is not unusual for someone to follow him.
Earline Davis (from left), Mary Jordan and Ginny Faulk are three members of the North Columbia County Fire and Rescue Ladies Auxiliary, who respond to fires with water and support items for the firefighters.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
On March 24, he left Appling headed for a large house fire in McDuffie County and a member of the department's newly formed Ladies Auxiliary followed McFarland with drinking water for the firefighters.
"Our (Ladies) Auxiliary has just done a fantastic job," McFarland said. "It is unbelievable. When we get to a structure fire or a fire where we need to have liquid, those folks are there with those coolers. They take care of the fireman. It's really neat."
The auxiliary, led by president Mary Jordan, is made up of mostly wives of volunteer firefighters, though any female family members are welcome.
"We do a lot of fund-raising," Jordan said. "Our main purpose is when they have a fire and they are out there in their hot suits and hot heat, we go out and carry water and snacks. In the winter, we take coffee, hot chocolate and snacks. If there is a bad accident or something, and they're going to be out on the road for quite a while, we take water out to them then.
"Anywhere they need us. Anywhere they ask us to help."
In October, during the process of merging the Appling, Leah and Winfield volunteer departments, ladies from all three who had been helping firefighters for years decided to make their union official and form the North Columbia Ladies Auxiliary. The group has 12 members and two junior members, who are teen daughters of a firefighter.
Four ladies who do not work, including Jordan, Earline Davis and Ginny Faulk, keep coolers, ice, snacks, towels and other supplies at their homes to be ready when their husbands' department pagers sound off.
Jordan said she listens to the scanner when a fire call goes out and if it will be a difficult or long call, she loads up the car with supplies.
The ladies auxiliary originated from the worries of a firefighter's wife, Jordan said. Most members went to large fires with water and helped with department fund-raisers.
"It stems from women who are concerned about their husbands out fighting fires and not knowing when they were going to get back," Jordan said. "It definitely makes you feel a part of it."
Davis agreed, "You get to see what they are doing out there."
Though auxiliary members are always willing to help the department and firefighters, the group now has its own causes and events.
The auxiliary has already sold raffle tickets at last year's Fire Fest and organized and held a spaghetti dinner, the department's Christmas dinner and a bazaar with vendors.
The group helped feed the family of Assistant Chief Wilbur A. "Buddy" Sebelist, who recently passed away, and planned the dedication of the Columbia Road training center in his honor.
Any funds raised benefit the auxiliary's newest effort.
"We also have a supply of clothing and things like that so if somebody is burned out in the middle of the night, we have got a place to take them to maybe get a pair of pajamas or something to put on the next morning," Jordan said. "So we try to keep that kind of stuff around."
The group is looking for donations of toothpaste, toothbrushes and any other essential items to keep on hand for victims.
"Anything we can do to help in the community to help the victims of fire or our firemen," Jordan said.
The ladies will be manning a concession stand today at the Columbia County Fairgrounds with hotdogs, chips and sodas for people who park there for the fireworks at Patriot's Park. They will also sell barbecue chicken at the annual Columbia County Fair.
The group meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at Station No. 1 in Appling, located at the corner of Appling-Harlem Highway and Shucraft Road. The next meeting is Tuesday, July 13.
Any teen or older who is a family member of a North Columbia fireman is welcome to join.
"They are a very aggressive group," McFarland said. "They are doing a super job."
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