Bethel volunteer firefighters are looking forward to moving to their bigger, safer fire station on Oakridge Road this summer.
A $2 million station is under construction beside the current Bethel Volunteer Fire Department station, the oldest of three stations in the department. The new facility will have five drive-through bays and 15,000 square-feet of space.
“The contract finish date is May 26, but we’re definitely looking forward to moving in early summer,” said Chief Michael Laws.
Workers last week said there has been soft ground the past few months because of rain and snow, but clear weather is helping the job progress. When the station opens, it will have more training room, more up-to-date technology and better parking, Laws said.
Response times will improve with more parking, he said, as firefighters can get to the trucks faster. Set back more from S.C. 557, the new station will improve safety for firefighters and others, he said.
With the current station, Laws said, “we’re actually having to back in off a major highway.”
Ten to 15 firefighters regularly work from Station No. 2 on Hands Mill Highway, which is getting interior improvements as the new No. 1 station is built. The department also has a station on Dr. Nichols Road.
“We’re actively making things better at all three stations,” Laws said.
Bruce Henderson represents the Bethel service area on the York County Council, which approved spending money from the department’s special tax district to build the new station.
“It’s certainly going to enhance the abilities of the firefighters,” Henderson said. “Overall, just the newness of everything, it could help draw more volunteers.”
The current station No. 1 has “limitations,” Henderson said. The building barely fits some trucks and has been expanded multiple times. The new construction in Lake Wylie could be a model for other departments in the county.
“A lot of people have a lot of interest in what goes on with this station,” Laws said.
With more homes and businesses in the district, Henderson said, it won’t be surprising if even more fire improvements are needed.
“Growth is coming,” he said. “We just want to manage it the best way we can.”
The Bethel department has 67 firefighters, including four full-time employees who work 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Volunteers fill in the rest and supplement the weekday crew as needed.