Even before the ceremony began Oct. 26, the atmosphere around Bluffton Township Fire Department’s brand new fire station was electric.
“It’s extremely exciting,” said BTFD Chief John Thompson. “I can’t even put into words how happy we are today. It seemed like the project took a while, but we made it.”
Red Barn Station 31 will be staffed 24/7/365 with four firefighters on the engine, two emergency medical service personnel on the ambulance and an EMS supervisor.
The station project, which was one of two new stations proposed by the county in 2014, came in on the $3.4 million budget, and a little delayed, said the chief, due to COVID-19 with the contractor having supply issues.
“And this is interesting: We split the cost with the county. This is a cooperative event,” Thompson said. “The town owns the road, and we and the county EMS own the station. So there are three agencies working together.”
District 9 County Councilman Mark Lawson, who represents the New River area, pointed out that while he gets to speak as representative, it’s the staff and everyone else who actually made it happen.
“The cool thing is this was actually designed and built by two local Bluffton companies, Court Atkins architect and Fraser Construction, so it’s also great that we have local people working here and doing a phenomenal job for us,” said Lawson. “This facility will aid in response times, which we know will save lives and save property and keep our public safe. The fire station here will be covering areas from Bluffton parkway, Pritchardville, Palmetto Bluff, and then our ever-growing New Riverside here, which is expanding every day.”
Beaufort County EMS Director Donna Ownby opened her remarks by saying that public safety people were the most unique group of people anyone could find.
“They put themselves out there every day for strangers they don’t know, never knowing what the day is going to bring. But they don’t mind,” she said. “It’s not for the glory, it’s not for the money. It’s because they care about people and they want to help them.”
When the speakers finished, board and active members of both the EMS and fire departments officially opened the new station by participating in the traditional fire service hose uncoupling ceremony – separating two linked fire hoses – the equivalent of ribbon-cutting.
The Red Barn Station 31 has 8,088 square feet of space, and is at 31 Red Barn Drive off New Riverside Road, adjacent to the large Red Barn.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.