St George, SC (NEWS RELEASE) – Dorchester County Council unanimously voted at their regularly scheduled meeting on November 17, 2015, to terminate the contract with Old Fort Fire Department for fire protection services provided to the unincorporated areas of Knightsville-Jedburg, also known as Tax District 209, effective January 17, 2017.
In 1989, Dorchester County Council established fire districts and thereby entered into an agreement with Old Fort Fire Department to provide fire protection services to Tax District 209. In 2013, Dorchester County Fire Rescue was created through a consolidation of several fire departments to alleviate the burden on the volunteer fire departments, to save money, and eliminate duplication of efforts between other fire departments. The Old Fort Fire Department, established by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1973, opted out of the consolidation with Dorchester County Fire Rescue.
There are three (3) fire stations in Tax District 209 operated by Old Fort Fire Department. The county owns the buildings known as Old Fort Fire Department Station 5, located at 2717 West Fifth North Street, Summerville and Old Fort Fire Department Station 7, located at Hundred Oaks Parkway in the Ponds Subdivision. Station 5 has been vacant since October due to water damage from the flood. Personnel and apparatus are currently operating out of Dorchester County EMS Headquarters located at 821 West Fifth North Street, which is 2.9 miles from Station 5, at no costs to them. The building known as Old Fort Fire Department Station 4, located at 938 Orangeburg Road, Summerville is leased by Old Fort Fire Department.
The inclusion of Tax District 209 into the fire protection responsibility of Dorchester County Fire Rescue is a continuation of the effort to achieve the county’s plan to provide county wide fire protection through a single fire department. “The goal and strategy handed to staff by County Council in 2013 is clear,” said Tres Atkinson, Fire Chief. “Tactics employed by the county fire department must be reasonable and provide as good or better fire protection going forward as what is already in place in a covered area by our department.” “That also means the most protection within our financial ability.”
Dorchester County Deputy Administrator, Charlie Potts says, “We also think that we will be able to provide as good as or a little bit better service. There are certain sections of district 209 that have residences that are more than 1,000 feet from a hydrant and Dorchester Fire and Rescue, they have a shuttle service and tankers that can bring water from a fixed water point, not a hydrant, to a fire ground.”
In July 2015, Dorchester County Fire Rescue received an improved countywide Public Protection Classification of 5/10 from Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO). This will result in savings in insurance premiums for the property owners in areas that were previously a Class 6 or greater, including Cattle Creek, Dorchester, Givhans, Grover, Harleyville, Indian Field, Ridgeville, St. George, and Sandhill.
Dorchester County Fire Rescue is 1.66 points from a Class 4. Chief Atkinson and his staff are looking at ways to achieve a Class 4 in 2016.
The county is working with the Summerville Fire Department to develop an automatic aid model for that district that will meet both our departments’ needs. Our ultimate goal with this automatic aid agreement is to have the closest fire truck responding to any call, at any location, regardless of whose fire district the call is in. This response model is currently in operation between the Charleston, North Charleston, St. Andrews, St. Johns, and James Island Fire Departments and it serves their citizens well. We also hope to develop an automatic aid agreement with Old Fort Fire Department for the areas of our response area they border.
At this time, no decision has been made by Dorchester County Council as to the closure of any of the three (3) fire stations in Tax District 209. “It is premature in the process to make a decision at this time,” said David Chinnis, Chairman of County Council. The final operation plan for the district is still under development and with the contract end date of January 17, 2017, a comprehensive plan will be created that will offer the highest level of fire protection service possible to the community. A draft version of the plan will be made available for review and input from the public will be welcomed.