Calhoun County firefighters are looking to establish a firefighter training association to help standardize fire response protocols across the county.

“One of the big things is that you’ve got every department now doing kind of their own training. There is not a whole lot of uniformity within Calhoun County. It definitely helps if everybody is on the same page with training,” Sandy Run Fire District Assistant Fire Chief Christian Wolfe said Monday.

“We all train together because we all have to work together,” Wolfe said. “That kind of makes everything go a little smoother on a fire scene.”

Wolfe spoke on the topic at a recent Calhoun County Council meeting.

He said the first step is to create a governing body and rules and regulations the body will follow.

Organizers hope to create a commission independent of county council. Even so, organizers hope council will appoint members to the commission similar to what is done with the Rural Fire District and Sandy Run Fire District.

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Each station would present a name for council to consider for appointment.

Wolfe said he is hoping to have a list of names for council to consider at the next council meeting.

Organizers hope that the association will one day oversee construction of a training complex.

Firefighters also hope the county can provide some funds for the training association, Wolfe said. He said the association will also pursue grant opportunities.

Wolfe said other counties will be consulted to see how they established such groups.

Fort Motte Fire Chief Randy Coleman said having a firefighter’s training association is crucial, especially considering that volunteer firefighters are in short supply when it comes to fighting daytime fires on weekdays.

“We are struggling for new recruits and even to retain who we have,” Coleman said.

Mutual aid agreements help county fire departments join forces to put out fires, he said.

“Fort Motte could not fight a structure fire by itself almost anytime. We have to depend on other departments. It is imperative that we are on the same training page coming out of the same book,” Coleman said.

“We have needed this for a long time,” Coleman continued.

Council Vice Chairman Ken Westbury discussed the county’s potential liability, while other concerns were raised about the actual construction of any fire training facility.

The county’s attorney will be involved in the formation of the association.

“The fire service’s mission is to protect life and property and we don’t want to cross that line and become a creator of a hazard,” Westbury said.

“Good training you can’t beat,” Westbury continued.

Councilman John Nelson, who is a first responder, noted that he has been on a number of scenes with fire departments.

“Some of them were set up pretty well and they go well in terms of crews that come in,” Nelson said. But a scene can become unsafe if people don’t have the proper training.

Nelson said he supports the standardization of fire training, procedures and equipment across all fire departments.

“As long as we do it right, as far as it relies on me, I will support you guys 1,000%, because it is absolutely essential that you train together and do it well,” Nelson said.

Westbury also suggested the firefighters contact the Calhoun County School District to help create a feeder program for the departments.

In other matters:

• Council gave unanimous second reading to an ordinance placing the Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s $10 million to $12 million broadband expansion project in the county within a joint county industrial park with Orangeburg County.

The joint county industrial park is not a physical park but an incentive used to encourage industries to locate, expand or invest in the region.

• Council gave unanimous second reading to an ordinance adopting the Calhoun County Council electoral districts based on the 2020 census. About 11 census lots in the county have changed as a result of the redrawing of the lines. A public hearing will be held on the third and final reading.

• A countywide litter pick-up campaign will be held Wednesday, April 20. Individuals will be able to come to the county administrative complex building to receive their supplies at 102 Courthouse Drive in the Courthouse Annex.

• The Purple Martin Festival will be held Saturday, April 23. The festival is back after a two-year absence due to the coronavirus.

• Council Chairman James Haigler congratulated the Calhoun County High School basketball team for winning their 10th Class A boys state championship in Aiken on March 4. Calhoun County defeated Scott’s Branch 53-49.

Council plans to honor the team at its next council meeting.

• Council unanimously accepted Speedway Court into the county’s road system. The road is located off of Murph Mill Road west of St. Matthews.

• Council read a proclamation naming March 26, 2022 as Bishop Johnie James Johnson Day upon his retirement as the judicial prelate of the Church of God in Christ South Carolina. He was installed as the judicial prelate of the Church of God in South Carolina in 1985.

Johnson is 98 years old.

• A moment of silence was held for the late council Chairman David Summers. Summers served as chair of County Council for about 41 years.

Summers was the longest-serving council chairman ever in the state since records were kept in 1969.

Summers died Feb. 26 at the age of 81. Prayers were offered for his family.

• Council went into closed session to discuss a contractual matter related to Project Cloverleaf and a personnel matter related to the Calhoun County museum.

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