Cayce, SC (Paul Kirby) – On Tuesday, June 30, 2020, the firehouse at Cayce’s Department of Public Safety was a hive of activity. A couple and their child came by to leave some food for the police officers and firefighters. Several took a break to greet them and take photos with the fire equipment. Out in the apparatus area, others were busily shucking ears of fresh corn, while more went in and out of the dayroom and kitchen doing other chores. Occasionally, a radio would blare, and everyone would stop, listen to see if the call was theirs, before continuing their work. Overseeing all this activity was Cayce Fire Department’s Battalion Chief Scott Hall.
A mountain of a man, Hall towered above the activity watching in his loose style of supervising. He had a proud air as he watched all the young crew members work. Many of these young people he had sown into, training them, sharing his experiences, talking, patiently working alongside them so they would know their jobs well. He wanted them to do a good job on every run, but more importantly, he wanted each to come back alive, uninjured, and ready to fight another day.
Hall led this reporter to a table in the kitchen area where the department’s assistant director of Public Safety, J.J. Jones, waved and said hello. He was himself cooking jumbo shrimp; the entire bunch looked as if they were preparing a feast. In truth, that’s exactly what these men and women were doing, preparing a Low Country Boil for lunch because this was Battalion Chief Hall’s final day at work.
A lifetime ago, Hall fell in love with the thought of being a firefighter. As a small child, just 4-years-old, he’d seen his stepdad fill up his Zippo lighter and it intrigued him. One day in his home on 12th Street in Cayce, young Hall decided to fill the lighter himself. In moments, he set himself on fire and Cayce’s Fire Department came to his aid. Hall spent several months in the hospital recuperating before returning home. To him, firefighters were the first who showed up when you needed help and that stuck with him.
During the same period, there was a popular television show called Emergency on each week. Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto, two Los Angeles firefighter/paramedics ran Squad 51. They would rush to fires or emergencies to save the day. Hall was a huge fan as many were. It reinforced his admiration for the people who did that work. He collected the Emergency action figures, the toy squad truck, small oxygen cylinders, and everything else that was sold that Roy and Johnny used. As that Zippo had ignited his clothes, this show ignited in his heart something that would eventually be his life’s work and passion, helping others during emergencies.
In kindergarten at a church in West Columbia, a teacher asked every student to write what they wanted to be when they grew up. Certainly, some students struggled, and others jumped at the most popular answers of that era. For Hall there was no hesitation. He put pencil to paper and wrote in the handwriting of a child, “I want to be a battalion chief or fire chief and retire.” When his grandmother read that, she knew it would be appreciated one day so she saved it. The paper was eventually returned to her grandson, the man who had written it as a child. Hall says he still has that note in his home today.
Hall grew up, played little league, and eventually moved to the Antioch area of Horry County. A year before he graduated high school, he became a volunteer firefighter with the Antioch Fire Department. Within a year of graduating, he was back in West Columbia which he really looked to as home. In 1991, he was hired by West Columbia Fire Chief Barry Anderson as a career firefighter with that department. I say career for a reason. It would be 31 years, or a career later, before he laid the gear down and turned the reigns over to the next generation.
If you’ve ever met a man with a servant’s heart, you’d immediately recognize Scott Hall has one. He didn’t skyrocket to the top, instead he took the steps of his career slowly, picking up experiences and knowledge along the way. He eventually became an EMT and paramedic, the first West Columbia’s Fire Department ever had.
As Hall gained knowledge and worked his way toward his kindergarten goal of being a fire chief, he worked for Lexington County EMS part-time as a paramedic while still moving up through the ranks at the West Columbia Fire Department. Eventually, he became an administrative employee with the rank of lieutenant in charge of training.
Certainly, his career was remarkable. With the exception of one small stint working for a private ambulance service, Hall worked for the people of Cayce, West Columbia, or Lexington County in some capacity for decades. Before he was through, he had been a paramedic, a firefighter, and a certified police officer. Through all that, he made our streets safer in some way and all of us should be grateful for that.
Hall remembers his biggest fire and his most impactful runs. According to Hall, the plastics plant that caught fire on Foreman Street in Cayce had to be the biggest and most intense fire he can remember. He said he was off-duty and asleep when his pager went off. He ignored it a few times but on the third alert, he thought to himself they might really need some help. When he looked at the pager the message across it was, “If you’d like to be an employee of the City of Cayce tomorrow, every firefighter will report!” He said he got the message as had everyone else with those pagers did too! They all reported, and that fire was a real burner for sure!
He also remembers making a run in West Columbia when a young man got hit by a train and was trapped under it. He wasn't in a car; he was sitting on the tracks when the train struck him. When Hall got there, they could do very little until railroad workers arrived with the equipment to lift that amount of weight off the young man. A surgeon flew in on a medical helicopter and Hall could do nothing more that maintain the young man’s vitals and speak to him calmly. Yes, he was conscious during the entire ordeal. At some point, Hall asked the man if he could pray with him and he refused! Although Hall respected his wishes, he couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to this young man that would make him refuse to ask for strength from God while he was trapped under a locomotive. Later, something changed in the young man and he spoke to Hall asking if he would still pray. They did together while he was trapped right there under that train. The young man eventually survived, and Hall often wonders how he is today.
He also ran a triple homicide. Later, the gunman eventually said he was coming to the West Columbia City Hall to turn himself in. When he arrived, even before police could approach his car, the gunman raised a pistol and shot himself in the head. You just never forget something like that.
Hall also remembers the good runs. He says he especially loved delivering newborns in the field. He’s done that several times. “There’s just something about being a part of that,” Chief Hall said, “It’s probably the most miraculous thing you’ll ever see or do. I’ll never forget each of those,” he concluded.
After 31 years, Cayce Battalion Chief Scott Hall has finally given it up. He’s says he’s going to get some rest, work on his music which is a favorite hobby, fish and hunt, and also work on himself a bit. He knows some of those bad runs are still in his head and he's smart enough to realize it may take some time and help so that it doesn’t affect him in the future. He may curse the dog when he trips; that’s an inside joke only a few will get. Certainly, he'll reflect on all those years of service.
Everyone knows he’ll stop by the fire stations to visit; how can he make himself stay away? Cayce Department of Public Safety’s Assistant Director of Public Safety J.J. Jones joked as lunch was being finished on his final day. “Scott, just keep those keys and I’ll see you after your short vacation,” Jones quipped. “I know we all know you’ll be back soon!”
As Hall left the station for his last time, firefighters escorted him home where people had gathered to congratulate him. As he was enroute, Cayce emergency dispatch channel broke and the message that he was signing off for the last time came across the airwaves. Other officers and firefighters wished him well and thanked him for the 31 years he gave. Now, Chief Scott Hall is 10-42, the code for out of service and at the house. Take it easy Scott, you certainly deserve it.