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Fire Protection Needs

web posted January 27, 2012

EDGEFIELD – Merriwether Fire Chief Joey Smith spoke on behalf of the fire services prospective saying that it is important to have mandatory training for all volunteer firefighters, including training together so that when different departments are involved in a single structure fire, "we're all working off the same page".

Chief Smith said that how, or even when - or if, those departments train is up to the individual fire chiefs. Under his leadership, the Merriwether Fire Department requires mandatory training of all firefighters every Tuesday and some weekends. Those who do not train do not remain on the department. He also supported all departments having first responders to help augment EMS due to only two ambulance crews available in the county.

Smith also said that it was important that each fire district expand their number of fire stations which would help lower the ISO ratings for home insurance. Several areas of the county have a 9 rating which can double if not triple the cost of fire insurance. Merriwether has built two fire stations by going to the community to seek donations and not using taxpayer funds to lower the entire fire district to a 5 rating. They plan to build two more stations in the next few years.

In addition, Smith felt that infrastructure, mainly water service, to support fire services should also be a main focus for the county.

County Administrator Roger LeDuc asked if he was correct that there was a portion of Mt. Vintage that has a 5 ISO rating (which provides one of the lowest fire insurance costs) and another part that is rated at 9 (the highest). Chief Smith said that it was true since the new section is included in the Edgefield Fire District, not Merriwether.

Another issue that was discussed, and the county council in very interested in looking at, is creating a county fire marshal that would oversee all fire districts to ensure all departments are trained properly and is proactive in helping to reduce the ISO ratings for all county homeowners. Part of that would be to see additional fire substations built (which would lower ratings) in the seven fire districts.

Of course, having water service and fire hydrants is also a factor that has to be taken into account and is being looked at by the infrastructure committee.

Administrator LeDuc stated that the County Council will be reviewing the fire contract at their February meeting and that the suggestions will be taken up by them at that time. The contract also has to be approved by the town councils of Edgefield, Johnston, and Trenton before taking effect.

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