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Colleton Fire-Rescue was busy in 2019.
Last year responders went out on 9,146 calls. But none of those, thankfully, involved a death in a fire, said Chief Barry McRoy. Three residents were injured in fires, one moderately, and one firefighter was injured. They did respond to 94 structure fires, 87 vehicle fires and 236 woods fires.
Fire responses in Colleton County were down this year. “We thankfully had a very low woods fire season in 2019, which was unusual since the year was mostly dry. We only ran 1/3 of the woods fires we normally respond to annually,” McRoy said.
However, emergency medical responses countywide increased. “We are seeing a big increase in medical responses on the Colleton County portion of Edisto Island,” he said.
County Council funded a second ambulance for Edisto five months during the year due to the increase in population from spring break to September. But the increase in responses has continued past those dates. “Even with the second ambulance operating, we had to send additional ambulances to respond to medical emergencies on Edisto 116 times in 2019,” McRoy said. “Those ambulances are relocated mostly from Green Pond or Cottageville, which pulls those resources away from the mainland communities. All of our neighboring counties are having similar increases in medical requests, with every surrounding county, except Beaufort, requesting Colleton to send ambulances to assist their counties on a weekly basis.”
Deputy Chief David Greene said overall in the past 10 years, the national average of building fires in the U.S. has dropped by 6.2%; however, fire deaths in the U.S. have increased by 9.6%. This shows the important need for working smoke detectors in all homes. Smoke detectors are inexpensive devices that operate 24 hours to alert occupants to the presence of smoke in the building.
“This early warning increases the occupant’s chances of escaping a fire, especially at night when most people are asleep,” Greene said. “Forty years ago, you had about 15 minutes to escape a house fire, but today the newer homes burn faster and the fuel loads burn much hotter, so the time has been decreased to about 3-5 minutes. Working smoke alarms can give you that edge and provide you with ample time to get out of the burning house.”
Greene also said homeowners should also consider having a residential fire sprinkler system installed in their home. These systems can help confine the fire. Given the high heat release rates of modern construction materials, furniture and furnishings, residential fire sprinkler systems can also save lives by suppressing today’s rapidly moving fires, giving occupants time to escape.
On the medical front, paramedics went out 6,127 times to medical emergencies; to 756 vehicle accidents with injuries, 20 of those with entrapment; and 112 hazardous conditions calls. Service calls numbered 896, good intent calls 467 and 290 false alarms. In addition, Fire-Rescue performed 994 occupancy pre-incident survey updates and 439 hydrant inspections twice in 2019.
Firefighter-paramedics taught 1,890 children ages 3-9 during October’s Fire Prevention Month in 21 sessions at local schools. This program teaches children the importance of fire safety and how to react during emergencies. The safety topics are wide ranging and build each year on what the children learned in the previous year. One-hundred-thirty-one fire inspections were made with 107 violations, 86 corrected.
They also conducted 49 home fire and life safety courtesy inspections and installed 107 smoke detectors.
The two fire stations in Edisto Beach responded to 376 incidents (229 medical assists and 56 service calls.) Fire-Rescue also conducted active shooter and bleeding control training in all public and private schools in the county, as well as with the school district bus drivers, during the end of 2018 and during 2019.
Every month, Fire-Rescue sends statistics to the National Fire Incident Reporting System.