Beaufort News

Update: Beaufort County firefighters assist with South Carolina flood relief efforts

The Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District sent firefighters to Claredon County on Oct. 5 as some of that county's firefighters have been called to Columbia, according to spokesman Scott Harris
The Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District sent firefighters to Claredon County on Oct. 5 as some of that county's firefighters have been called to Columbia, according to spokesman Scott Harris Submitted photo

Five firefighters from Beaufort County have been deployed to provide aid as South Carolina grapples with historic flooding.

One of them, Capt. Derek Franks of the Bluffton Township Fire District, took in the destruction of hours of heavy rain from a rescue boat in downtown Charleston, where he was assigned after the state activated its Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. His crew and another Task Force 1 boat each helped rescue and evacuate about 70 people since late Saturday night, Franks said Sunday.

Among the calls were people trapped on their car roofs after the vehicles stalled in high water and an entire apartment complex that needed to be evacuated, Franks said.

"This morning starting around 4 a.m. It seemed people woke up and realized the water had rose more than they expected," he said. "It is strange to see the people's eyes when they get into the boat and leave the home they have been stuck in for the last few days and realize how widespread the damage is."

Deployed along with Franks are fellow Bluffton firefighter Capt. Emerson Kovalanchik, Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division's Capt. Jason Walters, and Burton Fire District's deputy chief Tom Webb and firefighter Jennifer Williams.

They each voluntarily traveled to the S.C. Fire Academy in Columbia along with about 45 others from throughout the state for assignments.

Kovalanchik, Webb and Williams are with helicopter rescue teams operating out of Columbia, according to department spokesmen. Walters is also assigned to Columbia, Hilton Head fire marshal Joheida Fister said.

Another Hilton Head firefighter is on standby for the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Incident Response Coordination Team.

The Bluffton Township Fire Department and the Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District both sent firefighters to assist relief efforts in northern areas of the state. Hunter said crews were preparing Monday afternoon to travel to Clarendon County north of Lake Marion, where firefighters had been working relief efforts for the last several days.

Lady's Island-St. Helena spokesman Scott Harris said 24 firefighters from Beaufort County were sent to Clarendon County and will remain there for the next three days.

Beaufort Water Search and Rescue is also on standby with a Charleston rescue squad to be on standby to bring its airboat north, spokesman Dick Jennings said.

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office is also monitoring the situation but did not anticipate sending officers or equipment.

"Of course we would offer our assistance if a need is identified," Capt. Bob Bromage said.

As the city of Charleston takes over the remaining water rescues, Franks said his crew is relocating to Dorchester County, where more than 40 roads had been shut down by noon with another four to eight inches of rain on the way.

He said he and his team were beginning to feel the effects of trudging through water all night, but weren't quitting anytime soon.

"We train for this," he said, "so it's just work for us."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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