York County’s fire services try to save time and money by maintaining all their fire engines themselves, but that’s not easy when the county fire center has only two bays for housing those vehicles.
“Right now, we’re building a service truck in one bay, so that means we only have one available for all 100 trucks in the county,” said William Weatherford, county director of fire safety.
Space is cramped, Weatherford said, at the current fire training center on Ogden Road in Rock Hill, which is more than 30 years old and doesn’t meet the needs of the firefighters who use the facility from all of York County’s fire departments and beyond.
But firefighters will soon be getting some extra space. The York County Council on Monday approved three separate items that will lead to construction of a new fire training center. The council approved a $4.9 million bid by Southern Builders of York County to build the new center near York, on McFarland Road near Benfield Road.
Another $376,607 was approved to lay water and sewer lines to the currently undeveloped site – both for normal running water needs and for five separate fire hydrants the county will operate on site. Finally, the county will pay $27,500 to Summit ECS to independently inspect the construction process.
“We’re required to have a third-party inspector,” said Anna Moore, assistant York County manager. “They will be working throughout construction on concrete, masonry and asphalt, and the structure.”
Moore has overseen plans for the new training center. She said once all the contracts are signed with the construction company, work could begin “within two or three weeks max.”
The new center will give firefighters a lot more space to stretch out. The one training classroom they have available today will grow to three classrooms on McFarland Road, and one training tower at Ogden will be separated into a “burn tower” and a “structure tower.” All the extra facilities will allow different fire crews to do different kinds of training at the same time, without having to negotiate the training center’s limited space.
“One tower you can use for rescue purposes and positioning, and the burn structure we can use for fire attacks,” Weatherford said.
The training center not only serves all the county’s fire departments, but it also gets used by outside agencies for coordinated exercises or to train students at the S.C. Fire Academy. With more firefighters – both professionals and volunteers –having to go through more specialized training to get certified, it’s good for the fire safety office to have more options.
“If we have to do a two-day course and we’re not able to get all 600 firefighters there, now we won’t have to offer the same thing two or three times to get them all in,” Weatherford said.
Plans also will double the number of fire bays available from two to four, with space left over for fabrication and manufacturing materials. The new maintenance shop will take up 10,000 square feet at the site, and the training building will cover another 12,000 square feet, including office space for the fire director, marshal and inspector. Even the county’s 9/11 memorial, featuring a beam from the World Trade Center, will move to the new location once it opens.
Construction is expected to last 13 months, which means the new training center should be ready to open by the end of next year.
Officials haven’t decided yet what will happen to the Ogden Road center after the new fire training center. York County currently leases the existing property from the city of Rock Hill.