YEMASSEE, S.C. (WSAV) — A Yemassee man lost his house to a fire Saturday evening, even though it is directly across the street from the fire department on Old Salkehatchie Highway.
“What people don’t understand is that because we are all-volunteer, we can’t stay at the station all day long,” said Volunteer District Fire Chief Adam Bishop. “We have other jobs, we have families; but when the call goes out, we leave our families to come and do what we can.”
Yemassee’s volunteer fire department currently has nine people on the list, and five active firefighters.
When the 911 call came Saturday evening, Bishop left his home and two others responded from their jobs.
“The rumors that it took us over an hour to get there, I don’t know how that started; but according to our dispatch times, it took me 14 minutes to get here,” Bishop said.
Residents say it happens too often.
Another fire in 2016 less than a mile down the street, took the life of an 86-year-old woman and her dog.
“When we saw the fire, it was in one small portion of the house. With the response time, the entire house was covered in flames,” said Natasha Green who lives on the same street where both houses burned down.
“It’s a scary thought, it’s a scary thought. I have three kids,” she said, “So, there’s always that wonder, that big ‘What if?’ that’s there. But there’s also that what if of ‘What if we can make a difference?'”
The Yemassee Fire Department is currently run by Hampton County and funded through a small fire tax — but Bishop says it’s nowhere near enough.
“Unfortunately Hampton County is a very poor county, and they don’t really have the funds to staff full-time fire departments 24/7,” he said. “75 percent of our country is in the same boat.”
The most recent stats from the National Fire Protection Agency show more than 70 percent of fire departments in the U.S. are volunteers.
Nearly all of those are in communities with less than 25,000 people.
“People are gonna complain, but out of 2,100 people that live in the town of Yemassee, only two of us volunteer at this fire department,” Bishop said.
Green has teamed up with Bishop and others to raise awareness for more volunteers.
Anyone over the age of 16 can volunteer and you don’t have to fight fires; they also need help with things like maintenance and paperwork. Click here for more information on how to get involved.