Members of the Fort Mill Fire Department are celebrating the 100th anniversary of service to the community.
The department was officially adopted by the town council on Jan. 5, 1915. In the last century the department has grown from a small volunteer-only group to one with 21 paid staff members who work three different shifts.
The department has already been recognized by proclamations at a town council meeting and at the South Carolina State House. Andrew Mosher, a lieutenant in the department, said it’s something special to reach such a milestone.
“I’m proud to say that I have been a part of an organization with a long historic past and I’m looking forward to the future and what it brings for the FMFD and the citizens of Fort Mill,” he said.
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The department started with one hose, 15 rubber coats, 15 pairs of rubber boots and one aluminum helmet.
In 1925, the department received its first motorized fire engine. Before that, fire hoses were in storage houses across the city and firemen would have to pick the hose up and take it with them to the call.
“The fire department, like most volunteer organizations, was made up of people from the community,” Mosher said. “You didn’t have people coming from Rock Hill or Columbia to run the generic call that comes out. It was the people who lived here.”
The department now operates two fire houses, one on Tom Hall Street and another on Dobys Bridge Road. There are two engines, two ladder trucks and all the modern fire and medical equipment.
Firefighters with the Fort Mill Fire Department have helped extinguish some major fires, including one in 1988 that destroyed the Fort Mill Spring Plant where Walter Elisha Park is located. They also fought fires at First Baptist Church in 1993 and at Tony’s Pizza on Main Street in 2007.
They’ve also had the privilege of welcoming distinguished guests. Members of the department were on hand to help President Bill Clinton’s helicopter as it arrived to town in 1994.
Mosher said the department will have an official 100th anniversary celebration during National Fire Prevention Week beginning Oct. 5. He said it makes sense to use that time to bring awareness not only to the department’s milestone, but also the importance of fire safety. The department plans to host a community open house and will have its original department patch remade to reflect the centennial milestone.
Chief Chipper Wilkerson was recently promoted from deputy chief. He’s the 17th chief to run the department. He said it’s important to honor those who were there when the department was brand new and all who served along the way.
“It’s awesome to see a rich history and the lifetime members that are on the plaques on the wall; it’s important to honor their contributions and their dedication and effort they gave as volunteers to help preserve and protect this community,” he said.
“Not only are we wanting to celebrate our existence now but also celebrate what they did for us as well.”