With new fire service districts now set in Columbia County, officials are making the final adjustments to take stock of the changes and adapt to a new service map.
Firefighters from North Columbia Fire and Rescue and Martinez-Columbia Fire and Rescue battled a shed fire near Grovetown. North Columbia uses Martinez-Columbia to dispatch its calls.
Photo by Valerie Rowell
"I think it will all work out," Martinez-Columbia Fire and Rescue Chief Doug Cooper said at Thursday's Columbia County Fire and EMS Advisory Board meeting.
Before Thursday's meeting, maps inaccurately represented Harlem's pay-per-call district by a small margin. The issue was raised in the meeting, and officials said they would meet with all fire departments, including Harlem, to verify district lines.
"We've had a few bumps in the road," Harlem Department of Public Safety Chief Jerry Baldwin said at the meeting. "Until we get these district lines straightened out and mapping issues resolved, we'll have some bumps, but it's nothing we can't overcome."
Since July, North Columbia Fire-Rescue has used Martinez-Columbia to dispatch its calls.
"Actually, everything is pretty much getting better all the time," North Columbia Chief Tom McFarland said at the meeting. "The more the dispatchers learn the area, the easier it gets."
County 911 dispatchers say they are still getting used to the new district lines, adding that they are a little confused about which fire department to send to an incident in the areas along Interstate 20.
"The (districts) are marked around the property lines," Pam Tucker, director of the county's Emergency Services Division, said. "The question is, here is a property and (next to it) is another property, which one is in (the district) when you are out there."
The current Columbia County Fire District map is outdated because of changing district lines. Some information is also incorrect, such as Harlem's pay-per-call area; it is incorrectly represented by a small margin. If unsure of the zone, dispatchers should contact someone, then figure out the right zone.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Cooper said he would rather be safe than sorry until everyone gets used to the new districts.
"I told my guys that if you get a call and you are not sure, go ahead and dispatch somebody and if it ends up in somebody else's fire district, we'll work it out at the fire," Cooper said.
Because names and districts have changed in the past year, mutual aid agreements need to be updated or renewed, Tucker said. Mutual aid agreements come into play when a fire department needs assistance from a nearby department while at the scene of a fire or accident.
In the past, all neighboring departments have had agreements with one another and will soon do so again.
"I'm willing to do an agreement with anybody that wants to," Cooper said.
The board also discussed the possibility of a few automatic aid agreements, which would automatically dispatch firefighters from two neighboring departments to an area that has not yet been designated near the district lines. Automatic aid will probably be stipulated to structure fires only, Tucker said.
The one contract remaining the same after district changes involves the issue of who will provide extrication services in the county. It was decided at the meeting that Grovetown will continue to provide those services south of I-20, and Martinez-Columbia will provide extrication north of I-20.
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