TO THE RESCUE

Buying a plate of spaghetti or a barbecue dinner at the local fire department may not seem like a big contribution.

But to the volunteers at Pine Grove Fire Department, it means better protection for their community – and, for district homeowners, the possibility of savings on insurance.

The department is pairing money from its fund-raisers over the past few years with a first-of-its-kind grant in the county to bring a new service rescue truck to the Lugoff community.

“We started thinking about this truck probably three years ago,” volunteer Chief Charlie Catoe said.

The truck, a Ford F-550 with a service rescue body, was bought with nearly $40,000 that came from fund-raisers, including an annual barbecue dinner, a picture drive and seasonal turkey shoots.

That money, combined with a $40,400 federal Homeland Security Grant used for rescue equipment, will allow firefighters and first responders to have what they need at an emergency scene.

Pine Grove is the first Kershaw County fire department to receive a Homeland Security Grant. Capt. Dennis Ray said the department, likely won approval because it protects vital infrastructure, including Wateree Dam and Duke Power’s hydroelectric plant, as well as large industries such as Invista. The station also got support for the grant from U.S. Rep. John Spratt, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen and County Council Chairman Steve Kelly.

” (The truck) provides us with a lot more tools,” including more room for air tanks and a defibrillator, Ray said.

The truck also is expected to lower insurance rates for those living in Pine Grove’s fire service district.

The Insurance Services Office rates fire departments from 1 to 10, based on factors such as equipment and training. Kershaw County started a plan several years ago to lower such ratings at all county stations.

Pine Grove improved from a 9 to 7 in 2000, Catoe said. When the service rescue truck becomes fully functional in the next few months, officials hope to improve that rating to a 6 or a 5.

Many insurance companies take the ISO rating into consideration when setting homeowner policy rates. Catoe said when the rating dropped from a 9 to a 7, he personally saved $250 a year on insurance rates.

“The ISO, when it drops . . . that’s a big deal,” Ray said.

But the truck won’t just benefit Pine Grove and its substation at Lake Wateree, which respond to a combined 250 to 300 calls per year. Catoe said it will be available to assist other fire stations including Lugoff, Blaney, Doby’s Mill and even those in neighboring counties.

And Catoe said that is only right, since raising funds was a team effort.

“When we do our barbecue, people come from all over the place to support us,” he said.

Catoe said his department, which maintains about 30 volunteers, is proud of the new truck, which will be an important tool in the growing West Wateree.

He said as the county grows, “the fire service has to get bigger and more prepared and make sure we have the resources to meet the needs of the community.”

Raising the money and securing the grant “took a lot of time,” he said. “But it’s going to be worth it.”

Reach Rupon at (803) 771-8622 or krupon@thestate.com.Caption:

PHOTO: BW1. Brandi Thompson passes the new service rescue truck at the Pine Grove Fire Station in Lugoff with her 11-month-old son, Michael, daughter, Madison, 3, and a spaghetti dinner she purchased at a fund-raiser for the volunteer firefighters. PHOTOGRAPHS BY JESSICA LOWRY/THE STATE, 2. Charlotte Mills serves spaghetti at the Pine Grove fund-raiser in Lugoff on Tuesday. Past fund-raisers helped the department buy a new truck.

3. The service truck holds extraction, communication and firefighting equipment. The truck is also expected to lower insurance rates for people who live in the Pine Grove fire district.

October 28, 2004  State (published as The State) 
 Columbia, South Carolina
Page 72
October 28, 2004  State (published as The State) 
 Columbia, South Carolina
Page 72

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