Beaufort, Port Royal fire departments in need of volunteers

achristnovich@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 22, 2013 

In this file photo, a Beaufort ladder truck sits in its bay at the Ribaut Road fire station.

JAY KARR, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER — jkarr@islandpacket.com

  • For more information about volunteer opportunities with the Beaufort and Port Royal fire departments, call Capt. John Robinson at 843-525-7035 or the volunteer information line at 843-470-3515.

The Beaufort and Port Royal fire departments are holding a volunteer drive until the end of February -- and they can find something for just about anyone to do.

The departments need volunteers willing to work at least 12 hours a month and undergo training; they also need those who excel in photography or can speak at schools.

"There is no type of person we look for in a volunteer," Capt. John Robinson of the Beaufort department said. "There really isn't a number, limit, minimum or maximum."

The volunteers are trained in-house to support paid firefighters in the stations and on calls, Robinson said. There are 10 to 12 people, between the two departments, that volunteer regularly, Robinson said, and 12 more just completed training.

Derrick Washington, a 12-year volunteer who has been elected volunteer of the year seven times, said he tries to give at least 24 hours a month to the Beaufort Fire Department. He says it's a rewarding way to help the community. In addition, Washington said he has worked at the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority for 15 years, and has used his position there to help solve many water-related problems for the fire department.

"If there's a problem I can solve it quickly myself, or I know who to call," Washington said.

"(Washington) is invaluable," Robinson said. "The amount of water in a hydrant is not unlimited, so if we need more water, he has the right contacts to make sure there's enough."

Along with the volunteer training, the department offers a 90-hour training program with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which certifies volunteers for some types of firefighting. Currently, about 16 volunteers between both stations have basic OSHA training, Robinson said.

Nine more have at least 320 hours of training through the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress, which is the same minimum requirement paid firefighters must meet, Robinson said.

"They're certified exactly like a paid firefighter," he said of those nine.

Many of them convert their volunteer experience into a career.

"Most members in our department started out as volunteers, including the chief, deputy chief and myself," Robinson said. "There's always a place for someone in the department, whether or not they want to take a (training) class or just offer a special service."

So far, about 20 volunteer applications have been handed out. Others interested in volunteering can pick up an application from one of the Port Royal or Beaufort fire stations until Feb. 28. Staff will run background checks, examine driving records and interview each applicant, Robinson said.

The next training class is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 5 in the Port Royal Fire Department training room at 175 Paris Ave.

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