County to begin serving from new fire stations

PICKENS — While your fire protection may be changing this week, the number you call won’t.

“Just call 911 and our offices will find the people closest to you to help you,” Pickens County administrator Matthew Delk said.

12-31 Page 1A.inddWith Pickens County opening some new fire stations on Jan. 1, Delk said residents should be pleased with the new coverage.

“There’s not that many truly volunteer fire departments any more,” Delk said. “A lot of this is due to increasing requirements and needs.

“We still have some volunteer departments with people volunteering for firefighter I or firefighter II, all the way up to people volunteering to serve on advisory boards, even just community departments coming to help from time to time. It’’s truly a volunteer-born system.”

Delk said the county has been working toward covering unincorporated areas.

“Over prior years, the county has hired firefighters both part-time and full-time, to cover the realities we have right now,” Delk said.

“Speed of response is so critical. Whether or not a truck gets to a scene in 12 minutes or six minutes means a lot, in terms of not only saving lives but in saving property.

“A lot of times we will have one person assigned to a station. Some departments are still truly volunteer. Some are mixed systems. That’s generally what we’ve had in Pickens. I think they’ve had some full-time folks and some really great dedicated volunteers.”

People are concerned about ISO ratings and their effect on insurance costs, Delk said.

“Everyone gets these grades from a private institution out of New Jersey, and the insurance company uses the grades to determine what your property rates will be, based on how fast and how well they think we’re going to put out your house when it’s on fire,” Delk said. “If we’re doing a poor job providing for an area, then obviously insurance will be higher versus somebody who is doing a really good job providing for an area.”

One of the biggest concerns is whether or not an area is within five road miles of a station.

“A lot of times somebody’s neighbor gets a better insurance rate than they do just because their neighbor is within that five-mile radius,” Delk said.

One problem is that five-mile radius areas are not perfect circle.

“Then you’ve got these gaps of people outside of the five-mile area, and their insurance is terrible,” Delk said. “If you take a bowl like Pickens County and put in round objects like these five-mile areas, if you put in more of them, more areas are covered. It really is that simple.”

Some concern is because only one of the new stations is currently furnished.

“A lot of people have asked ‘how are you going to fight fires from these unfurnished buildings?’” Delk said. “But buildings don’t fight fires — firefighters do.

“Buildings are basically sheds, warehouses, places to train, places to prepare for the next incident, places to repair and store equipment. The important part for us is that we have volunteers and a few aid people that are ready to respond from these three locations Jan. 1.”

Delk feels the county is working to better serve all residents.

“Between ourselves and the cities, there’s 19 stations, and Jan. 1 when we’re responding from these three others, we will have 22. That’s going to cover more people,” Delk said. “From my end of the desk, that’s what we’re charged to do — we’re charged to save lives and protect properties.”