Swansea, SC (Paul Kirby) – A mobile home and brush fire challenged the resources of the fire service just before 4:00 p.m. Thursday afternoon as firefighters and equipment from across the south region worked to bring it under control. The fire was in a very rural area of the county between Swansea, Mack Edisto, and the Savannah Highway close to the intersection of Foxwood and Fox Forest Drives off Woodford Road. When the first fire service pumper rolled up, the firefighters reported that a mobile home was more than 70% involved in fire and that a brush fire was also raging.
Because this small neighborhood is relatively close to the Orangeburg County line, most of the firefighting resources were coming from stations located north and east of the fire. In emergencies in other portions of the county, equipment and manpower would normally respond from all directions to assist. This meant that the first due teams from the county’s Mack Edisto, Swansea, and the next closest stations were in the thick of it for some time before help in the form of more water tanker trucks and manpower could arrive.
The captain out of Swansea was in charge of the fire until the arrival of the first due battalion chief that’s stationed in South Congaree. That chief struck a second alarm quickly for more tankers and manpower because he knew that the manpower in the area had arrived on the first trucks. This left other equipment that could transport water to the blaze sitting in the stations closest to the fire with no drivers. This is a common problem in the rural areas with no hydrants. There are tanker trucks stationed at all of those stations, but if the two-man crew responds on the engine, the tanker is left with no driver or vice-versa. In some cases, the multi-personnel equipment will drop a driver at a station while they respond, and that dropped man will get the tanker on the road, but those opportunities have to avail themselves. In many cases, it’s simply a matter of limited manpower and how many drivers are available who aren’t actively fighting the fire.
The second alarm brought trucks with more manpower and especially water from stations as far away as Boiling Springs and Fairview. It also activated the response of the North Region’s battalion chief and the on-call duty officer. They began to move equipment from far reaching locations to fill in at the stations that were stripped of their resources by the fire. Once Battalion #2 arrived and command was passed from the captain to him, enough firefighting resources began to arrive to actually bring the fire under control. When enough tankers with water arrived to supply a steady fire flow and manpower was on the scene to put the water on the flames, they were able to bring the fire under control in a relatively short period of time. Although the fire Thursday destroyed the mobile home and burned an area of woods, thankfully no one has been reported injured by the county at this point. They also haven’t said if they know yet what started the fire.
This fire is an example of what can happen when resources are limited in the most rural areas of our county. Financial constraints limit the size of the career firefighter crews and a lack of volunteers to supplement those full-time personnel presents quite a firefighting dilemma. Firefighters are limited to what they can do safely when there’s only a handful of them on a scene and the fire is raging. If you factor in a lack of fire hydrants in the area that limits the water that’s readily available, fighting even a small mobile home fire can be challenging. Until the council can find a way to fund more manpower for such services, and juggle those needs with the needs of all other county services, even fires that might be relatively easy for crews to control will remain a daunting challenge.