Mock fire session held at new Bluffton Fire District training facility

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

BLUFFTON, SC (WTOC) - A new training facility at the Bluffton Township Fire District is now being put to good use, and Thursday, they held a full burn safety training session for firefighters.

The new facility is saving the city money now that crews won't have to travel to actually complete training hours. WTOC spent Thursday morning with crews as they suited up to take on the heat.

In the past, the Bluffton Township Fire District would travel to Paris Island, Marine Corps Air Station, or Hilton Head training facility, just to get their training hours in; which meant overtime pay, fuel costs, and other logistics had to be factored in for their required training to happen.

Firefighters geared up and put the four-story building to use. They set multiple hay fires to get a sense of how intense conditions are when they'll respond to real-life circumstances.

Usually, safety courses are broken down to different specifics, but Thursday it included the different building blocks such as ladder training for raised level recovery, hose management, search and rescue, victim rescue, and fire attack.

Officials say training at home gives firefighters a better understanding of how things work while in the field.

"For example is, we have two companies working together as a team, which we would do on a normal fire. If we went to the air station in Parris Island, we were only to do one engine company at a time, so we had to make sure we were getting the most bang for our buck while the engine company was there because they would not be doing that live fire training for another six months," said Captain Randy Hunter, Bluffton Township Fire District. "When we were looking at what we can do for our community, that's one of the things. We didn't just spend money on this building because we wanted to live fire training here. It's calculated, what's going to benefit our community."

By completing safety courses at home, it could also mean less money spent on homeowners insurance.

"It's like 20 hours at a facility. ISO comes in and they inspect our records, and if we don't meet that, then we lose that point," Captain Hunter said.

Lou Bennett has been living in Bluffton nearly four years and he's pleased to hear about insurance savings.

"I know a lot of other places where it's higher, so I'm quite satisfied with what it is right now," Bennett said.

How ISO works is, the fire department response time, staffing, water supply, and overall fire suppression capabilities are measured for accuracy. Basically, insurance companies want to know how much will it cost to cover your home.

For Diana Brown, she's happy to know fire officials are working for the community.

"Moving here is much better," she said.

She's lived in Bluffton for 10 years and says there's a difference compared to other places she's called home. According to her, the fire departments there were not prepared.

"You've basically gotta go to like a fish pond to get water. Your house would probably be burnt down," she said.

Before this new training facility, Bluffton firefighters committed themselves to saving lives. That commitment hasn't changed; they're not just in a better position to keep raising the bar when it comes to public safety.

Captain Hunter says the last time they were ISO classified was about three or four years ago. A review typically happens about every 10 years.

There are eight fire stations in the Bluffton Township Fire District. We're told the facility would also be open to other agencies to come in and use.

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