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One by one they filed to the front of the room as the large crowd burst into applause.
The long line of men, mostly chiefs decked out in their best dress uniforms, represented the county’s 19 fire departments in a special ceremony by County Council on Tuesday night.
After the county hosted the S.C. Fire Chiefs Association conference in October at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster, as well as recent coverage of each fire department in The Lancaster News, council wanted to recognize the volunteers for all they do.
“We have wall to wall firefighters tonight,” Council Chairman Rudy Carter said, looking around the packed council chambers. “These are some of Lancaster County’s finest.”
Forming a semicircle at the front of the room, each firefighter received a special plaque and proclamation from Carter and County Administrator Steve Willis to honor their hard work.
“This is a general thank you for everything you do for this county,” Carter said. “We know about all the extra benefits you get, including getting up at 3 in the morning when it’s 20 degrees outside and fighting fires.”
Carter said he was extremely proud of the group.
“My little chest puffs out when I talk about our firefighters,” he said. “They usually get paid no attention.”
Councilman Jack Estridge also thanked the fire departments for their hard work, including the many hours they volunteered in training to help get a low countywide Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating. The rating is based on several factors, including fire services, which can drastically affect insurance premiums for homes and businesses.
“Thank you for that ISO rating,” Estridge said. “That means a lot to a lot of homeowners.”
After the ceremony, each firefighter had a chance to shake hands with the council members.
Earlier in the evening, Carter honored The Lancaster News for its multi-part coverage this fall of the county’s fire departments. Carter presented Susan Rowell, publisher of The Lancaster News, and Barbara Rutledge, editor of the paper, with a proclamation.
“It’s not that often that we get to do things to recognize not only The Lancaster News for great reporting, but the firemen who do such a great job for us,” Carter said.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416