At a brief Tuesday night meeting, members of Camden City Council were treated to a presentation by the Camden Fire Department’s (CFD) Explorer Post 911. CFD Chief John Bowers said the young people who are part of the Explorer post are an “important part of our department; we struggle with our numbers in the area of recruitment and retention and part of our process to try to solve those problems is to get young people introduced to the fire service early to whet their appetites. Some will love it but move on to other things, but some will stay and make it their career.”
The Explorers participated in the S.C. State Firefighters Association’s 2019 Fire Rescue Conference on June 28 in Columbia, earning third place in team gear donning and second place in hose deployment events, Bowers said. At the council meeting, Explorers Dakota Brown, Tristian Brown, Ben Carnell and Josh Carr gave a demonstration of gear donning, carefully setting up their fire gear and equipment before being timed on how quickly they could get fully suited up.
Bowers said the Explorer program gives young adults the chance to experience “what it’s like to be a firefighter. At the age of 14, you can join the fire department as an Explorer and work around firefighters.” At the age of 18, individuals can join the fire department.
“The best part of being a firefighter is that you can do it part time,” Bowers said. “If you want to do it as a career, you can, but if you want to do other things and maintain a volunteer status with the fire department, you can do that, too.”
Bowers also recognized Explorer advisors Jody Morrow, Jake Mertz and Jamey Brown, presenting them with certificates and thanking them for their leadership and support.
“We have a very dedicated group of advisors who work with our young folks,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate over the years to keep a good core group of advisors to mentor these young people, because it takes up a lot of their time, away from their own families.”
After the presentation, City Manager Mel Pearson gave council more good news, telling them the CFD recently received a $30,000 grant from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. The money will be used to purchase 16 sets of turnout gear.
“With this grant, we are able to purchase lifesaving equipment for our responders,” Bowers said. “We are grateful to the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation for enhancing the safety of our firefighters.”
The funds will allow the fire department to provide a second set of turnout gear to its first responders, he said. Turnout gear is the common term for the personal protective clothing and equipment that firefighters wear to provide them thermal protection and to prevent exposure to carcinogens and other toxins in hazardous conditions, particularly when entering burning buildings.
CFD first responders are currently provided one set of turnout gear, Bowers said. Following a fire, that gear becomes contaminated.
“Our firefighters will use the second set of gear while the first set is being cleaned and decontaminated,” the chief said. “This will allow our firefighters to remain ready for the next call and will help prevent possible exposure to carcinogens.”
Deputy Chief Phil Elliot, who applied for the grant said studies are showing there is a connection between firefighting and cancer.
“This is fairly new knowledge and the statistics are devastating,” Elliot said. “Our department has adopted the ‘Everyone Goes Home’ campaign and we have extended the slogan to include not only at the end of the shift, but at the end of their careers.”
The Firehouse foundation provides grants that impact the lifesaving capabilities and the lives of local heroes and their communities. Established in 2005, its founders started the foundation with the mission of providing funding, lifesaving equipment and educational opportunities to first responders and public safety organizations. The foundation has granted more than $44 million to “hometown heroes” in 49 states, including $1.7 million in South Carolina.
Bowers and Elliott said the Firehouse Subs in Camden is a community partner to the local fire department, providing a variety of support that includes FireFest, which touches approximately 3,000 people throughout the Kershaw County Community.
In other business, council members:
• designated Aug. 4-10 as National Health Center week;
• appointed Jennifer Haunert to fill an unexpired term on the Camden Historic Landmarks Commission with a term to expire May 31, 2022; and
• entered executive session to discuss a contractual matter related to real estate but took no action when returning to open session.