FLORENCE, S.C. — West Florence Fire Chief Howard Worrell, a collection of neighboring fire service representatives, county and state dignities on Thursday morning marked the opening of West Florence Fire Rescue's new Station No. 1.
They did so with both a hose uncoupling by the engine bays and a ribbon cutting at the front door.
Located on South Ebenezer Road beside Trinity Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the new station is but a few scant blocks from its predecessor — but what a difference the blocks make.
The new station — built by Mashburn Construction — offers an improved kitchen and dining area, a collection of recliners facing a television where firefighters can unwind after calls and a fitness center, though the equipment isn't in yet.
It also offers beds for 10 firefighters — eight men and two women — and two laundry rooms, one for regular laundry and one to decontaminate turnout gear.
One of Worrell's top priorities is built into the building — four double-depth drive-thru engine bays so fire engines and ladder trucks won't have to be backed into the station. The bays also have see-through doors so people driving by can see the equipment from outside the station.
And the ladder truck won't have to be kept at the South Cashua Drive Station — there is room for it in the headquarters station.
"It allows us to bring the ladder truck to this station and serve the GE plant and other commercial properties," Worrell said of the truck, which pretty much takes up one double-depth bay on its own.
A new station wasn't originally part of the plan.
"This has been a project that, honestly, we were gifted this project by Florence County," Worrell said.
Under the second penny capital sales tax initiative the department was slated to get its headquarters station renovated.
"When that became untenable, (Florence County Council) Chairman (Willard) Dorriety came to our rescue," Worrell said. "He came up with a plan for funding a new fire station and through a lot of creative work Florence County has managed to pull it off."
Speakers, in addition to Worrell and Dorriety, included Florence County Councilman Mitchell Kirby, Florence County Legislative Delegation members Jay Jordan, Philip Lowe, Robert Williams and Roger Kirby and Brian Johnston, vice president of operation for Mashburn Construction Company.
After the ribbon cutting the station was opened to those in attendance to tour and Cooks for Christ — which has a long-standing relationship with West Florence Fire Rescue — served a chicken bog lunch.
Worrell said he is not finished yet and is now working with neighboring departments Howe Springs and Sardis-Timmonsville on siting a new West Florence Fire Department Station No. 3 on Alligator Road — one that would replace one now on South Cashua Drive.