YEMASSEE, SC (WTOC) - Just days after a fire in Yemassee killed an elderly woman and her dog, Hampton County made a push to bring back the fire department within the town's limits.
Following the deadly fire, we heard reports that the fire department was actually closed, but that's not true. The Yemassee Fire Department wasn't actually closed. However, it wasn't fully functional at the time the fire destroyed the home on Hill Road.
The department is volunteer-based, so without volunteers or properly working equipment, it was in no shape to respond to a major incident like that deadly fire, but the county has heard the concerns of residents. They are working to bring the department back to full speed, like it was years ago.
"Everybody is wondering what they could have done if they would have known, or if they were aware at the time of the fire. That's just the way you feel in your heart," said Joe Stukes, Yemassee resident.
Several residents blame not being aware of a major fire in their backyards on the lack of a fire department.
"We're in the process of re-equipping the trucks; equipping our volunteer firefighters with what we have right now. We've started over with our volunteer base," said Chief Adam Bishop, Yemassee Fire Department.
This process was prompted by a county takeover of the town fire department.
"When the ISO inspection came in, the ISO rating of the fire department went from a five to a 10, and the town couldn't really afford to buy all of the equipment needed to maintain an ISO rating of five. So, going with the county allowed them to get equipment the county already had, as well as buy the equipment that we didn't have, and needed," said Chief Bishop.
The fire chief explained that it could cost more than $1 million to get all the things the department needs. However, even with a full staff and new equipment the department will still have some limitations.
"Our firefighters don't get paid, and we're not here 24/7 like firefighters at full time department. When we get calls, we're coming from work, we're coming from home; so it takes us a little bit longer to get to the station to get in the trucks," said Chief Bishop.
That's why the department is currently recruiting volunteer firefighters. The chief says the more volunteers the better, because the department can be self-reliant and can cut down on those response times.
With eight volunteers already signed up, the department says it is functional right now, so with its current equipment and firefighters, the Yemassee Fire Department can go out, respond to a call, and successfully put out a fire.
If you want to find out how you can get involved, visit the Yemassee Fire Department's Facebook page here.