Council takes step toward Florence County Unified Fire District Board

February 22, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence County Council took another step toward the creation of a countywide fire district board Thursday morning.

The council voted 9-0 on second reading to approve ordinance language that would provide for the creation of the Florence County Unified Fire District Board.

The new language, replacing a chapter of a previous ordinance, would place the fire district under the direction of county fire/rescue services coordinator Samuel Brockington Jr.

The county finance department under the direction of Kevin Yokim would receive submissions of expenditures by the district.

The replacement chapter would also create the Florence County Unified Fire District Board. which would be responsible for the development of standard operating procedures and training standards, assisting in the assessment of buildings, equipment and manpower of the fire districts, and developing a plan to deliver fire and rescue services within the district. The board would also be involved in the purchase of equipment, subject to approvals from Brockington, County Administrator K.G. “Rusty” Smith, and the county council as necessary.

The board would consist of seven members: one appointed by the county council from the geographic area of each of the seven fire districts. Those fire districts are the Johnsonville Rural Fire Department, the Sardis/Timmonsville Rural Fire Department, Howe Springs Fire Department, the Hannah-Salem-Friendfield Fire District, the West Florence Rural Fire Department, the Windy Hill Volunteer Fire Company, and the Olanta Rural Fire Department.

Eventually, the board members would be appointed to four-year terms. However, in order to stagger the terms, the first appointments of three seats would be for four years, three seats for three years, and one seat for two years.

The new Ordinance No. 13-2018-19 is the latest step in the process of creating a countywide fire district. On April 2, 2014, the county council voted to create the unified fire district. However, the South Carolina General Assembly voted in 2014 to create a special West Florence Fire District that included a very small portion of adjacent Darlington County.

Florence County sued to prevent the creation of this district and on March 7, 2018, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an opinion that declared the creation of the West Florence District unconstitutional.

Shortly thereafter, the council began the process of including the West Florence Fire Department into the district. An ordinance approving that inclusion was passed upon third reading on June 21, 2018, by the council.

Ordinance No. 13-2018/19 will likely be up for third reading and final approval at the March meeting of the county council. That meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m., Thursday, March 21, in Room 803 of the County Complex.