Charleston area fire departments combine forces, regardless of jurisdiction

(Dave MacQueen/WCIV)

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Five Charleston area fire departments are taking steps to provide the fastest support when responding to future fires and emergencies, regardless of where the call for help comes from. The City of Charleston, the City of North Charleston, St. Andrew's Public Service District, James Island Public Service District, and St. John's Fire District have all approved an "Interlocal Agreement for Automatic Aid and Response" to provide mutual assistance during emergencies.That means in the future, responses will be from the closest available crews for emergencies that are located anywhere in these jurisdictions, regardless of municipal and service district boundaries."Automatic aid is all about the customer getting an adequate response without the worry of whose jurisdiction they may reside in," said St. John's Fire District Fire Chief Karl E. Ristow."This agreement assures we provide the best response and customer service to the our citizens," said Charleston Interim Fire Chief Franklin Finley. "We are proud to be working with the other Departments." The agreement will be signed Monday at the North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center.{} Mayors, Fire Chiefs, District Managers, and Commissioners will all participate in the ceremony."This agreement for automatic aid significantly improves our capability to handle major emergencies as well as multiple, simultaneous incidents," said North Charleston Fire Chief Greg Bulanow. "I credit our partner departments with working through many challenges to achieve this agreement that provides safer and more effective service to the citizens we serve." All of the departments have developed identical or compatible procedures over a number of years that allow the members of each of the five departments to work together seamlessly at fires and other emergency incidents. {}"This historic document is all about improving service to our customers while enhancing safer operations for our personnel," said St. Andrews Public Service District Fire Chief Mark Schrade.The areas included cover Daniel Island to Kiawah Island and Ladson Road to Peninsula Charleston. These five departments have a total combined force of approximately 800 firefighters who can now operate together at large scale emergencies. {}"Automatic Aid, common Standard Operating Guidelines, and joint training are key to providing the citizens we protect with the highest level of service possible," said James Island Public Service District Fire Chief M. Chris Seabolt. "This Automatic Aid Agreement ensures that our communities are receiving the quickest possible response to their call for service by sending the closest unit regardless of jurisdiction." Each department will bear the costs associated with its own crews and equipment, with the possible exception of hazmat costs.{} Assistance is determined on an "as available" basis and is not required if it means that safety in one area will be diminished by providing assistance in another.