Fire trucks crowded the Columbia County Justice Center parking lot Wednesday as Columbia County officials and guests marveled at the newest additions to the Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue fleet.
Four new pumper fire trucks and a hazardous materials trailer were open for public viewing in what Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross called "a display of horsepower and efficiency."
Purchasing the fire trucks and equipment that was inside the hazardous materials trailer was part of the $43 million bond referendum approved by voters in November.
The four trucks, which have been equipped with radios, air packs and other equipment, total $1,027,617 of the more than $5 million in public safety projects included in the bond. All of the trucks have been put into service after the last was equipped Wednesday.
Equipment for the hazardous materials trailer, including radios, air packs, response equipment and a light and air unit, cost $143,386. The light and air unit, which has not yet arrived, provides light for night fire scenes and portable air to refill air packs, said Pam Tucker, the county's Emergency Services director.
"We've still got (to buy) air-monitoring equipment. That is one of the most critical pieces of equipment if we do ever have a chemical spill," Tucker said. The equipment would allow emergency responders to monitor air patterns. "We've never had this capability."
The hazardous materials trailer allows the fire department to respond to emergencies along the county's 17 miles of interstate highways, which is key, Tucker said.
Other equipment is already on order, including a second aerial truck for the Sugar Creek Road fire station, Tucker said. Renovations to the Cobbham Road fire station and the construction of a training facility on Columbia Road are in the planning stages.
Some county officials got an aerial view of the Justice Center and a large part of the county as they were lifted nine stories in the air on the platform of the department's aerial truck.
"It was a good ride," Commissioner Tommy Mercer said.
Cross said the county has evolved from a hodgepodge of fire protection into a single service when some rural fire agencies merged at the beginning of 2006. That was when county officials contracted Martinez-Columbia to provide countywide coordinated fire service.
At Wednesday's showing, Cross said the smooth transition was largely because of Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue Chief Doug Cooper's leadership and dedication.
"We could not have anything near what we have here today for fire protection for the citizens of the county without the great spirit, willingness and enthusiasm Chief Doug Cooper has shown," Cross said. He also credited residents for approving the bond issue.
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