Columbia County leaders congregated in the shiny-floored bay of the Phinizy fire station Friday to dedicate four new rural fire stations and to enjoy a bowl of hot chili on a cold day.
"This is really a celebration for this area and for our whole county," said Pam Tucker, the county's Emergency Services director.
The ribbon-cutting at Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue Station No. 10 in Phinizy marked the dedication of four stations in unincorporated areas - 3141 Ray Owens Road in Phinizy, 480 Sugar Creek Drive and 1090 Old Louisville Road, both near Grovetown, and 1646 Clary Cut Road near Harlem.
Martinez-Columbia firefighters moved into the buildings from temporary trailers more than a month ago.
"We've come a long way," said Columbia County Administrator Steve Szablewski, thanking former leaders and firefighters of the Appling, Leah and Winfield departments, which served the rural areas on a subscription basis before Martinez-Columbia expanded its service into all of the unincorporated areas of the county under a contract financed through a fire tax.
The Ray Owens Road station in Phinizy has three truck bays, two offices, two bathrooms and four bedrooms, in addition to a kitchen/dining room and a lounge area. The station will house a duty chief.
The other stations have two truck bays, an office and bathroom, living areas and three bedrooms.
"It's like a mini Taj Mahal," Battalion Chief Dino Cesarini said at the ceremony.
Szablewski said Martinez-Columbia operates 13 24-hour staffed stations.
"We're not finished yet," Szablewski said. "The citizens of the county approved the bond issue recently and we're going to be in the process of building a brand new fire station in the Leah area.
"Eventually, our goal is to have a fire station within five miles of everybody in Columbia County with the same training, the same equipment, the same dedicated service to serve the people of Columbia County."
Martinez-Columbia, which took over all fire service in the unincorporated areas at the beginning of 2006, has more than 200 paid and volunteer firefighters, Assistant Chief James Champion said.
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