Firefighters rescue Guinea Pig, chief warns of manpower shortage - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Firefighters rescue Guinea Pig, chief warns of manpower shortage

Firefighters were able to rescue a family pet and extinguish a kitchen fire before an entire house was destroyed Wednesday, but officials say dwindling manpower may be putting people and property in danger.

Lugoff firefighters were called to a house fire on East Ridge Rd. around 3 p.m. Wednesday. When they arrived, they found heavy black smoke coming from the front door and windows.

Crews entered the home and, during the initial search for occupants, found a Guinea Pig in its cage. Nobody else was in the home.

Firefighters contained the fire damage to the kitchen area and the home sustained moderate smoke damage throughout. The Red Cross was notified and assisted the family with living arrangements after the fire.

"Based on the amount of fire they faced upon arrival," said Fire Chief Dennis Ray. "A few more minutes would have meant a total loss of the home"

While Ray is pleased at how personnel were able to contain the blaze, he is concerned there aren't enough firefighters. Ray said that for the first 20 to 25 minutes of the fire, only six firefighters were available from all four fire stations in the West Wateree area.

Two of the six were operating fire trucks and one was in command of the incident. "Had this been a larger fire, we would have been in trouble as far as manpower available to fight fire," said Ray. "I am concerned at the trend that is occurring in our fire service where we do not have personnel available to fight fire."

Ray said that even though the volunteer ranks in his department have good numbers, volunteer availability is quickly dwindling at all times of the day from family and job commitments.

"Our fire and rescue operations (like this incident), as well as our last ISO insurance rating, clearly show our greatest weakness is available manpower on fire and rescue incidents," said Ray. "Only six firefighters from four separate fire stations during a house fire is troubling."

Ray pointed out that structural fires require the greatest number of personnel due to the complexity of operations to include the limited use of breathing air, extreme temperatures requiring firefighter rehabilitation and recovery, and the multiple job assignments needed for safe operations.

After multiple alerts for more help, volunteers began arriving from Lugoff and Doby's Mill later during the incident as well as a second engine from Lugoff's Whitehead Rd. substation, Ray said.

A total of 9 personnel were eventually on scene to conclude the operation. Ray said while the hiring of more career firefighting personnel remains a priority for the department, it is also the most expensive part of a department's overall operating budget.

The department is actively seeking viable and sustainable options to fund more full-time firefighters to help maintain a dependable workforce to work alongside the volunteer ranks for incidents such as this home fire.

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.

On Wednesday May 16, 2012, the Lugoff Fire Department responded to East Ridge Road in Lugoff around 3 PM for a reported house fire. Engine 10 responded from Lugoff Fire Headquarters with five firefighters on board. Engine 10 arrived at the home to find heavy black smoke showing from the front of the home coming out of the front door and windows. Firefighters entered and quickly extinguished the fire then checked for hidden fire extension into the home.

No one was inside the home at the time of the fire and the fire started from unattended cooking materials on the stove. Firefighters rescued a family pet, a Guinea Pig, found during the initial search for occupants still inside its cage and returned it safely to the family. Firefighters from the Blaney and Doby's Mill fire departments also responded and assisted with the fire.

"I am very proud of our firefighters to arrive so quickly, establish the proper incident command and attack plan, and contain the fire so rapidly. Based on the amount of fire they faced upon arrival, a few more minutes would have meant a total loss of the home" Lugoff Fire Chief Dennis Ray stated. Firefighters contained the fire damage to the kitchen area and the home sustained moderate smoke damage throughout. The Red Cross was notified and assisted the family with living arrangements after the fire.

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