News From District Four
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Some time ago Sumter County residents voted to fund a fire tax that would be based on all property in the county. This tax began to impact departments in most areas of the county in late 2000. Since that time departments in the area have made significant progress to retire aging vehicles and to place good equipment in service to make operations safer for firefighters and greatly improve the service offered to the citizens protected by our departments. While the amount of money is not tremendous, many departments were wise stewards of the people’s money and purchased items that would have a significant impact on safety and service. Before the tax many agencies in Sumter County were operating with equipment that was older than the average member of their departments. Only departments that were located in municipal settings were in better shape. The corner had been turned and the departments as a whole were climbing, but not very fast.
In 2001, the federal government placed the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program on the map and solicited applications from fire departments in the United States. The amount of money that first year was small and very few of the applications submitted were award, but the flood of applications indicated that there was indeed a problem in the American Fire service that was not being met on the local level. Since that time departments in South Sumter have aggressively pursued grant funding from the AFG program and from any other source that we could locate. The AFG program has brought all sorts of new equipment to the area and all items have been sorely needed. Before the grant program firefighters were wearing outdated PPE (personal protective equipment) and using SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatuses) that were outdated and in many cases aging. Thanks to the grant program the fire service in South Sumter has new equipment and has been able to get ahead of the equipment replacement cycle by using their tax money skillfully. The AFG program has also brought a state of the art communication system and some much needed by very expensive equipment like thermal imaging equipment to the area. Lastly, the program has brought apparatus to the area that allowed us to retire and refit a tired and aging fleet. That brings us to the sisters… Over the past two grant cycles, departments in South Sumter have received three tankers. These big trucks do much more than wear red paint and look great. They provide something that every firefighter needs t do their jobs effectively. The three tankers provide a combined lift capacity of 7,200 gallons of water. This a large amount of water and in most cases is sufficient to do the job. These tankers and their engine counterparts are allowing the men and women of the South Sumter area Fire Service to do a much better job of saving lives and property. Gone are the days of the fire truck leaving your burning home to search for a hydrant. The fleet of tankers will keep a steady supply of water coming to the scene.
The progress made has been huge, but it is not enough. The departments that make up the South Sumter area are working hard on grant applications for the coming cycle and hope to see a few more vehicles replaced as well as some equipment purchases to round out a few weak areas. Most importantly, the departments in the area need men and women who wish to serve their community in a time of need. It is imperative that we have new members in the next year. All a person has to do is be willing to serve and we will handle the rest. The departments offer a comprehensive in-house training program that results in a new member possessing a national certification at the completion of the course. In addition, the departments offer members workers compensation insurance and the satisfaction of knowing that YOU made a difference in your county and the lives of your neighbors.
The first of the tankers to arrive was the Whitfield unit. It carries 2,200 gallons of water and is fully equipped to work as an engine or a tanker.
The second of the tankers to arrive in the area found its home at Siloam. This tanker carries 2,500 gallons and is equipped to deliver water or stand and fight.
The last to arrive was the Ward FD Tanker. This unit also carries 2,500 gallons and is equipped in a similar fashion to the other trucks. Infact, all three were equipped in nearly identical fashion so that members of the various departments would have little trouble operating or finding equipment on the trucks.
Each unit has a dump valve in the rear that allows the tank to be dumped into the drop tank that is carried on the truck in a matter of minutes. The engines that serve with these tankers are capable of “feeding” from these tanks while the tankers themselves return to a source of water.