Fire - Rescue

Established in 1994, Fire-Rescue provides emergency services to an immense response area, covering 1132 square miles. Operating from 36 fire stations located in the beautiful South Carolina Lowcountry, the department is one of the largest ISO Class 3 Fire Departments in the United States. The staff is comprised of 150 volunteer firefighters, supported by 98 cross-trained career personnel. Fire-Rescue operates a fleet of 128 vehicles including 40 engines, 38 3,000 gallon tenders, 8 brush trucks, 15 paramedic ambulances, 2 E-One 95' Platforms and 1 ARFF (aircraft unit).

  • Awarded 2020 South Carolina Emergency Management Agency of the year
  • Awarded 2021 South Carolina Large EMS System of the Year

Services

  • Fire Suppression
  • BLS & ALS Emergency Medical First Response
  • Paramedic Level Emergency Medical Transport – Ambulance
  • Air Medical Transport (C.A.R.E. Flight)
  • Emergency Management
  • Fire and Life Safety Education / Prevention Activities
  • Fire Inspections / Code Enforcement
  • Fire Investigation / Arson Detection / Computer Fire Modeling
  • Technician Level Hazardous Materials Mitigation
  • Technical Rescue / Extrication
  • Water Rescue and Recovery
  • Confined Space and High Level Rescue
  • Public Education/ Fire Prevention
  • Aviation Crash Rescue

Through a progressive local government, the department has experienced tremendous growth since 2002. Fire-Rescue constructed and equipped eighteen new fire stations to extend coverage to many rural communities and reduced the ISO classification countywide. The department assumed suppression duties within four municipalities and began providing countywide ALS/Paramedic Level Emergency Medical Services. All career staff members are cross-trained as Firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT, Advanced or Paramedic), an effort that greatly improved operations for the citizens. In 2017, Fire-Rescue began providing Air Medical Transports through C.A.R.E. Flight, a collaborative partnership with the Med-Trans Corp. In 2019, Fire-Rescue assumed the Emergency Management duties for Colleton County and the following year began administering Whole Blood in the field.

Colleton County Fire-Rescue maintains an ISO Class 3 rating. This classification applies to the Colleton County Fire District and includes areas located within five road miles of a Colleton County Fire Station. Structures located outside of the five-mile limit remain a Class ten (10). 

The County Fire District includes the Towns of Cottageville, Lodge, Smoaks and Williams. The municipalities of Walterboro and Edisto Beach maintain separate fire departments with unique ISO classifications.

The Class three (3) rating does not apply to the unincorporated areas of Edisto Island, located in Colleton County. Fire Protection in these areas is handled through a contract with the Town of Edisto Beach. The ISO rating in this area is presently a Class Nine (9).

Demonstrations of Fire-Rescue equipment, displays of equipment or discussions may be arranged by calling Fire-Rescue Headquarters at (843) 539-1960.

Fire-Rescue ambulances should be used for emergency conditions only. When the ambulances and the 9-1-1 system are abused by persons who are not experiencing a medical emergency, then the ambulance and its trained Firefighter-Paramedics are not available for persons who really need them. All patient transports are communicated to the hospital staff either by radio or over the telephone. If an emergency condition does not exist, transport by ambulance may not be provided. In non-emergent cases, patients may be transported to the Emergency Department, evaluated by an on-duty nurse and then directed to the lobby until they can be treated.

 With the limited number of County operated emergency ambulances, it is not possible to routinely transport patients outside of Colleton County. Fire-Rescue operates emergency ambulances which when used properly by the citizens, should be called only when a medical emergency exists. Emergencies are transported to the closest appropriate medical facility (hospital). Colleton County has a single hospital, so the majority of the patients transported by a Fire-Rescue ambulance are transported to Colleton Medical Center in Walterboro.

At times, medical conditions dictate transportation to a medical facility outside of Colleton County. Severe trauma patients are generally transported to a Regional Trauma Center. Fire-Rescue typically utilizes one of several air medical (helicopter) services for this purpose. On the rare occasion when a medical helicopter is not available and the patient’s severe injury and medical condition dictates the need for a Trauma Center, a Fire-Rescue ambulance may under certain conditions transport the patient directly to the Trauma Center outside of the County.

Fire-Rescue paramedics and ambulances are in place to provide pre-hospital emergency medical care and if necessary, transportation to a medical facility (hospital) during emergency situations. The purpose of the program is to provide emergency care. For this reason, Fire-Rescue ambulances only transport patients to hospital emergency departments.

Non-emergency transports, such as doctor’s office visits, dialysis treatments or return transport from a hospital to a residence are handled by one of the several private ambulance service providers.

Fire-Rescue carries equipment to break into automobiles for a variety of reasons. Primarily the tools are used for emergency purposes, such as a child or animal accidentally locked in a vehicle. A locksmith or other automotive service agency generally handles non-emergency lockouts. 9-1-1 should not be called for non-emergency lockouts.

The closest Fire Station is notified of life-threatening medical emergencies within its assigned response area. Fire Trucks do not routinely respond on all ambulance responses.

Fire-Rescue has a large response area, encompassing 1132 square miles. Colleton County operates eight (8) Paramedic level ambulances on the mainland and one (1) on Edisto Island. Response times can be long depending on the area of the County where the emergency exists. Fire-Rescue operates thirty-five (35) fire stations, with apparatus located within many communities. Most fire stations are located within five to eight minutes of a residence. During predetermined life-threatening emergencies, such as heart attacks or a person not breathing, the closest fire station is also alerted to respond. In this way, trained firefighters can reach the critically sick or injured patient within a few minutes and begin lifesaving medical care prior to the ambulance arriving.

All career staff positions and many volunteer personnel within the Fire-Rescue Department are cross-trained as Firefighters, Medical First Responders and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs or Paramedics). This provides the skills to the sick or injured person; only the vehicle they arrive in is different. Additionally, most ambulances are staffed with only two personnel. With critical patients or multiple patients, additional personnel are needed to care for patients. Fire apparatus carry a multitude of equipment that is not available on an ambulance as well as a compliment of medical equipment. The two-tiered response allows Fire-Rescue to provide the best possible services to the community.

All 9-1-1 calls are handled by the Sheriff’s Office. Calls takers answer 9-1-1 calls and are supposed to immediately process the calls to the radio operator for notification of the closest emergency response unit(s). Generally, a radio operator is dispatching the ambulance, while the call taker is still gathering important information from the caller. This information aids responding units before they reach the scene. Additionally, many dispatchers are trained to assist callers with vital life saving information and talk them through an emergency until the Firefighter-Paramedics arrive.

Full-Time or Part-Time Employment:  Interested applicants may submit a resume and any supporting documentation to jobs@colletoncounty.org.

Volunteer Firefighter Positions: Fire-Rescue is always seeking ambitious individuals who wish to serve their community as volunteer firefighters. Sixty percent of the firefighters in Colleton County are volunteers. Training for volunteers (with a few exceptions) is free to the volunteer. Interested individuals may contact Fire-Rescue Headquarters located at 113 Mable T. Willis Blvd, Walterboro, SC 29488 (843) 539-1960. A short application is needed and all applicants are subject to a criminal background check as required by SC Law.

This used to be an endeavor used by the Fire Department to practice skills and assist homeowners in removing deteriorating structures. Due to the passage of the Clean Air Act, this is a practice, which is no longer conducted by the fire department. SC DHEC regulates the Clean Air Act. Homeowners who wish to have a structure burned, should contact a DHEC representative at 843-846-1030. After the removal of certain materials, the building can be rendered safe for burning. However it is usually less expensive to demolish the building by other means.

Unfortunately, Fire-Rescue is not able to remove fire apparatus from service to fill swimming pools. There are many reasons, which prevent the use of Fire Apparatus for this purpose.

  • Colleton County’s Water Tender Fleet is primarily used for firefighting efforts. Fire-Rescue covers an immense service area comprising 1132 square miles. Fire Department Tenders are spaced approximately every 8 to 10 miles throughout the County standing ready to respond to fire related emergencies. It is difficult to justify removing Tenders from service for non-emergency use.
  • Due to the lack of a public water system in most areas of the County, the only way to transport the water is in tender trucks. These units weigh in excess of 23 tons, and generally cause damage when driven across or parked in a residential yard and/or driveway.
  • Due to health reasons, the water in the Fire-Rescue Water Tenders is not potable (drinkable). Firefighters utilize several firefighting additives such as light water or foam, which contaminates the water, making it unsuitable for consumption. This foam also causes a large froth on the surface of the water, which is undesirable for most pool owners. The foam cannot be filtered out and increases if the water is agitated.
  • The plumbing on most tenders is constructed of metal pipes. The piping with age tends to rust. This does not affect the ability to fight fires, but leaves rust and residue in any container, in this case a swimming pool. Again an undesirable byproduct for pool owners.
  • Finally, many of the tenders in the Fire-Rescue have a sealant, coating the interior walls of the water tank. This coating has several health risks associated with its composition making the water stored in the tank unsuitable for use in a swimming pool.

For a Burn Permit, contact the SC Forestry Commission at 1-800-986-3599. The Forestry Commission regulates outdoor burning in the unincorporated areas. If you plan to burn a debris pile or yard debris, contact the Forestry Commission at the above number. If you plan to burn on sequential days, you will need to call each day, as conditions change daily. If you live within the municipal limits of Walterboro or Edisto Beach, you will need to contact the appropriate fire department. Some municipalities have specific Ordinances regarding outdoor burning. (City of Walterboro Fire Dept 843-549-5731 / Town of Edisto Beach Fire Department 843-869-2505)

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Fire - Rescue
Business Office Hours: Monday-Friday 8 am - 5 pm
Training Division Office Hours: Monday-Friday 8 am – 5 pm