Engineer Jeff Carroll and firefighter Wade Johnson spent the first morning at Martinez-Columbia Fire and Rescue's newest station cleaning and getting settled in.
Martinez Fire Department engineer Jeff Connell (left) and Wade Johnson are temporarily assigned to the new fire station's temporary headquarters on Clary Cut Road.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Tuesday was the first day of operation for the station on Clary Cut Road in Harlem, the department's eighth station.
"It went all smooth, with no problems," Chief Doug Cooper said, adding that the station didn't have any calls on its first day, but workers had plenty to keep them busy.
"The guys are mainly just getting used to the area,'' he said. "They have been mapping the area, getting the map books ready and learning where the limited amount of fire hydrants are in that area and stuff like that. They like to be real familiar with the area they are in."
The area covered by the station extends from Louisville Road west to the McDuffie County line and from Interstate 20 south to the Harlem city limits.
The station currently is a mobile home and a garage for the 750-gallon spare pumper truck that will be used until a new 1,000-gallon pumper is completely outfitted with radios, lights and all other vital equipment, Cooper said. The permanent building is in the process of being designed and built.
Cooper said his department has hired seven new firefighters to man the station around the clock. But while the new hires are working out two-week notices with other employers, firefighters from other stations are being rotated through shifts at No. 8. Because new firefighters learn from experience, experienced firefighters will be assigned along with them to help them learn the ropes.
"Once we get it all set up and done, it is going to be great," Johnson said of the new station and its coverage area, which has never before had 24-hour fire protection.
"I think it will be nice for us and nice for the people of this community.''
Water is the main problem in the rural areas of the county because some streets do not have functioning water hydrants. So having backup firefighters and water-laden trucks from station No. 7 on Sugar Creek Drive near Grovetown, No. 6 on William Few Parkway and the several manned North Columbia Fire and Rescue stations is helpful and in some cases, essential, officials say.
"That's really great coverage for that area out there," said Pam Tucker, Columbia County's Emergency Services director. "All the fire departments are working really well together and everything is running smoothly, so we're pleased."
A fire master plan completed in 2003 projected needed upgrades in county fire protection, including manned stations throughout the rural areas. With the department taking over operation of the Sugar Creek Drive station Jan. 1 and the Clary Cut Road station Feb. 1, 24-hour fire protection is growing farther into rural areas of the county.
"Right now, fire protection in the county is better than it has ever been," Tucker said. "The fire service has very much improved over what it was just a year ago."
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