Planning for new fire stations begins

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Planning is under way for two new fire station in the city of Charleston after city council voted Tuesday night to approve a $3.4 million tax hike.

The money raised from the tax hike was primarily to hire 19 new police officers for Charleston area schools, but it will also advance the Charleston Fire Department's service in the community.

"It's not going to take a lot of food off my table for what the taxes are going to increase. Taxes typically go up; they don't go down so this is just a fact of life," said Larry Sanborn, a Charleston homeowner.

Sanborn lives in Carolina Bay, a neighborhood that would directly benefit from the tax hike. Part of the money would fund a new fire station in Cainhoy.

"I think it will be a definite advantage to us, just in case there should be a fire. We live in a townhouse and if one side burned, the whole thing is going to go down," he said.

Charleston Fire Department Chief Karen Brack said having the additional fire stations will allow for faster response times.

"Sixty percent of the calls we run now are EMS calls, so that means if you're having a heart attack, you have a medical emergency, we are going to come to that as well," she said. "So the faster we can get to that or a fire, the faster we can intervene, the better it is for our community."

In addition to two new fire stations, the department is also getting four new pieces of equipment, including two new engines.

"One of the issues with Cainhoy is we have water supply issues in that area. And so part of what we will be putting in the Cainhoy area is a tanker so that we can take the water supply with us," Brack said.

She said they do have a site in mind in Carolina Bay, but finding the exact location may take a while.

"We have to go out and find these places to put these stations, so we have to do site work, then design work, and of course we have to build them," Brack said. "Then we have to purchase equipment and get firefighters trained up."

Brack said she plans to hire 45 new firefighters over the next three years.

Tax bills won't reflect the increase until August or September.