2 S.C. FDs form automatic aid agreement following 2022 mall shooting

The Richland and Lexington departments' pact is intended to reduce response times


By Holly Poag
The State

Residents in Chapin, White Rock, Seven Oaks and other nearby areas can now rely on both the Columbia-Richland Fire Department and the Lexington County Fire Service, reducing the amount of time it takes for a crew to arrive in an emergency in some areas.

A new Automatic Aid Agreement between the two services will “facilitate the automatic response of fire crews from both agencies to any emergencies that may occur in communities bordering their jurisdictions,” according to a press release.

Response times to emergency calls have already decreased, say officials with the Columbia-Richland Fire Department and the Lexington County Fire Service.
Response times to emergency calls have already decreased, say officials with the Columbia-Richland Fire Department and the Lexington County Fire Service. (Photo/Tracy Glantz/Tribune News Service)

This means that no matter which county you’re in, either the Lexington or Richland fire department will be able to respond, depending on which agency has a vehicle closer to your emergency. Ultimately, the goal is to decrease response times in an emergency.

Lexington County Fire Deputy Chief Nathan Prouse said the Automatic Aid Agreement has been years in the making.

Conversations had begun in the past, but when Mark Davis took over as Lexington County’s fire chief in 2019, discussion picked up. He saw the benefits of having an Automatic Aid Agreement after his experience with the Charleston County Fire Department.

“We kind of considered this a no-brainer,” Prouse said. “We’re just going to share the burden. So we’re almost spreading the cost of what we consider doing business.”

When a shooting happened in April 2022 at the Columbiana Centre mall — which is in Columbia city limits and straddles the Richland and Lexington county lines — fire services and EMS agencies from different jurisdictions had to pull together. Prouse said this event helped accelerate the discussion about the aid agreement.

“We started a group of all the operational leadership of emergency services in theMidlands to start having conversations that we didn’t have before. All in the same room,” Prouse said.

The agreement was adopted in late November. Mike DeSumma, spokesperson for Columbia Fire, said the departments waited until recently to announce the news to make sure it was delivered properly.


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What this means for you

Response times to emergency calls have already decreased, officials say.

Several weeks ago, the Lexington County Fire Service had a structure fire on Lake Murray. Prouse said that normally, the three companies in the Chapin area would not have been able to quickly arrive at the scene. Because of the agreement, the Columbia-Richland Fire Department was able to get there in less time. Columbia and Irmo firefighters were able to supplement staffing zones to improve safety.

Your neighborhood fire department will also experience less burdens because of the agreement, officials say.

Christopher Kip, the assistant chief of operations for the Columbia department, said Lexington County’s specialized unit, a ladder truck, in the Chapin area will benefit all of Columbia fire’s responses in Richland County and nearby areas.

Hazardous material teams will work within the automatic aid agreement to work together in large incidents.

However, despite the expected lower emergency response times, homeowners shouldn’t expect their insurance costs to change for a while, as fire department insurance ratings will not be updated any time soon, Prouse said.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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