GUYTON — Robert Ancell runs a small-town fire department with a big-city approach.
“For us to keep up with the times and give citizens the best delivery and service they can get, we’ve got to make some adjustments,” Guyton’s fire chief said.
The Guyton Fire Department’s coverage area extends far beyond the two square miles that make up the city. The agency, which relies heavily on volunteers, is responsible for 46 square miles.
“As you know, Effingham County is growing exponentially,” Ancell said. “As more people move in, that is more people that need the protection. We are constantly trying to recruit and get more people in here.”
The staff currently under Ancell’s direction is well trained.
He said, “We were talking to one of the guys the other day and he said, ‘At what point do you obtain all the certifications that you need in the first service? I told him, ‘Never!’ You never get to that position because at the point you get to that position you are getting to the point of stagnation and complacenty. You have to be constantly training on this job because there are a multitude of disciplines in a job in the fire service and to you need to be looking over different material every day of the week to stay where you need to be.
“You have to keep up with new regulations and new input through the National Fire Service and new equipment that has presented itself. It’s a constantly evolving situation.”
Ancell is familiar with many fire protection techniques.
“I have had enough opportunities to work with enough individuals to be able to narrow it down to the good mechanics of operation and how to exclude the bad mechanics,” he said.
Ancell wants to use proactive strategies to help Guyton residents prevent fires.
“That is one of my strong focuses — fire safety initiatives,” he said.
The department is joining with the Red Cross to distribute smoke detectors.
“It’s a free program just as long as you maintain (Red Cross) documentation,” Ancell said. “Once we get that plan in place, I’ve got smoke detectors for anyone who comes in and needs them but I don’t have any for us to go door to door.
“Once that program is established, we plan on hitting the streets and going to the more needy individuals, talking to them and finding out what kind of a safety plan they have.”
Ancell hopes to the department reaches the point that it can install detectors and rectify residential fire hazards.
“I’m a safety advocate,” he said. “I want every one of (the firefighters) to be safe and I want every one of these citizens to be safe. When we are having a slow day, that means no one else is having a bad day (because of a fire).”
See the May 23 edition of the Effingham Herald for more details.