Department Name: Columbia Fire Department
County: City of Columbia, Richland County
Type Department: Combination-Career/Volunteer
Structure: We are a City of Columbia Department, but provide fire service to Richland County through a Unified Fire Service Contract. The annual budget is supported by both the City of Columbia and Richland County.
Number of Stations: 32
Number of Apparatus: 86
Pumpers: 32 Aerials: 4
Do you provide EMS? No Specialty Operations: HAZMAT, Heavy Rescue, Swiftwater; as well as regional response units to include Collapse Response, MMRS — Metropolitan Medical Response System — bus and command trailer.
Annual Budget: $32,000,000
Area Covered Square miles: 772
Total Runs: 40,000
Fire: 40,000 EMS: N/A
Chief: Aubrey D. Jenkins
Chief Officers: These numbers reflect the number of budgeted positions with our department.
Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, Deputy Chief Harry Tinsley, Assistant Chief Jamie Helms, Assist Chief Michael Edmonds, Fire Marshal George Adams (these are members of the Executive Command Staff). There are three suppression Division Chiefs, each manages a shift, one Admin. Division Chief, 15 suppression Battalion Chiefs, 1 Staffing Battalion Chief, 1 Health and Safety Battalion Chief, 1 Logistics Battalion Chief, 1 Training Battalion Chief, 1 Assistant Fire Marshal (Battalion Chief).
Other Officers: 84
Suppression Captains, 5 Training Captains, 1 PIO (Captain), 11 Deputy Fire Marshals (Captains), 123 Engineers, 149 Senior Firefighters and 69 Firefighters. There are multiple logistical personnel administrative assistants.
Number of Members: 600
Paid: 495 Volunteer: 105
Address: 1800 Laurel Street Columbia, South Carolina 29201
- Dedicated Fire Education programs in schools, religious organizations and communities
- Smoke Alarm partnership with American Red Cross installing 240 smoke alarms a month.
- Smoke Alarm/Carbon Monoxide community blitzes in partnership with area college and Jeffery.
Top Two concerns in your community:
- Insurance Ratings (ISO)
- Large Venue Incidents/Active Shooter Incidents
What are you doing for fund raising?
As we are a government agency we are restricted from doing fund raising for our department, but we participate in numerous fund raising events for charities each year to include a few:
- Muscular Dystrophy Association
- Curing Kids Cancer
- American Red Cross
What upgrades will you make in your department this year?
- New/upgraded fire stations
- 20 new apparatus (engines, tankers, ladder, brush trucks)
- Numerous loose equipment for new apparatus and updated equipment for current apparatus
What special hazards or unique businesses in your community?
Our response areas are both rural and urban, which in itself can contain hazards. The rural areas provide challenges for establishing water supplies for incidents; the use of water points, dump tanks and shuttle operations are the first thoughts for officers as a call for service is dispatched in our rural response areas. At this time a large portion of one Battalion — at 300 square miles — remains a challenge due to the loss of water points from the October floods. This is not to say we have not put into action alternative water supply plans, but it has proven to be a challenge at times.
Our urban areas specifically within the City of Columbia have several hazards and unique businesses to include; multiple universities/colleges, a military installation, multiple business and residential high rises, multiple hospitals, several rivers that are used for recreation.
In addition to these we also have several military installations, large production/manufacturing facilities and a nuclear facility in our neighboring jurisdiction.
What problems in your department that you would like feedback from others?
Like most departments the challenges of having a successful recruitment and retention plan; specifically having a budgetary balance of salary, benefits, requirements for promotion and shift schedules are a difficult task.
As fire chief, I am proud and amazed at the accomplishments of this department on a daily basis. The professionalism and dedication of the men and women of the Columbia Fire Department are exemplary; in particular the members of the Columbia Fire Department went above and beyond the call of duty during the recent floods of October 2015 especially the first three days of the flood.
The CFD was inundated with calls for service during the first 24 hours. On a normal 24 hour shift the CFD has an approximate call volume of 80 to 90 calls for service and at the heaviest of times the call volume has not reached more than 120 calls during a 24 hour period. During the first 24 hour period of the flood we experienced 1014 calls for service. (Note: an unknown amount of calls for service never made it through to 911). At the height of the flooding, between 03:00 hours and 12:00 hours, over 751 calls for service were requested averaging 87 calls an hour for nine hours straight (1.5 calls every single minute).
The CFD responded to an assortment of calls. Below are the ones we ran the most:
- 412 Flooded Vehicle/Victim Calls
- 222 Flooding Calls
- 98 Medical Responder Calls
- 48 Water Rescues
- 23 Collapsed Structures/Tree on House
- 14 Reported Structure Fires
Additionally, I am thankful for the amount of support from fire departments across South Carolina that we received through S.C. Firefighter Mobilization, S.C. Forestry State IMT, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, S.C. National Guard and U.S. Army.
Lastly, the CFD received an outpouring of support from our communities; both from individuals to our businesses and religious organizations for dropping off meals, snacks, drink and etc. throughout the entire operational period. This support of those we serve during this event was incredible and much appreciated.
The CFD is proud and honored to serve the citizens and visitors for the City of Columbia and Richland County.