SPRINGFIELD — An old structure with a new purpose has been a game changer for Effingham County Fire & Rescue.
“This station has given us the ability to become a truly centralized location for a majority of our operations,” Effingham County Fire & Rescue Chief Clint Hodges said. “It has really increased efficiency — a lot.”
The new station — a converted garment factory located just north of Springfield next to Springfield Elementary School — doubles as the headquarters of Effingham County Fire & Rescue and the Effingham Emergency Management Agency.
“The thing I like about this is that it allowed us to get more building at a lower cost because we were able to use something that was already here,” Hodges said.
The roomy building provides areas for storing supplies, equipment and vehicle maintenance. That was not the case previously. Supplies and equipment were scattered at multiple locations.
Effingham County Fire & Rescue has a total of 14 stations. They are scattered throughout the county in order to meet the goal of having every county resident live within five or six miles of one.
“The fifteenth is under construction down on Hodgeville Road,” Hodges said.
Nos. 16 and 17 are likely to be built in the distant future, the chief added.
EOM and Capt. Ryan Morris are responsible for keeping the department’s vehicles humming.
“We try to do as much (mechanical work) in house as we can,” Hodges said.
The department has 18 engines, eight tankers, a ladder truck, a dozen quick-response vehicles and a UTV. Some of the vehicles are more than 25 years old.
“We put a lot of work into preventative maintenance and taking care of them,” Hodges said.
The UTV is four years old but looks new.
“That thing has come in very handy,” Hodges said. “We have used it for a bunch of rescues and missing persons.”
Hodges said he doesn’t expect the Effingham Parkway, an east-west road set to run parallel to Ga. Hwy 21, to impact response times very much. He thinks it will make a major difference in other ways, however.
“I think it’s going to improve transportation, allowing people to get from Point A to Point B much quicker and efficiently,” he said. “It’s also going to open up areas of the county that are currently in the middle of a forest. Some of that will be opened for development, which will be good for the community.”
Effingham County is already growing rapidly. According to U.S. Census data, its current population is 64,296, an increase of 12,000 since 2010.
“Effingham County’s population is growing even faster than I would have anticipated,” Hodges said. “People are coming here from all over the country.”
More people means more fires.
“Last year was definitely a record for us,” Hodges said. “Our call volume went from just short of 3,600 calls in 2019 to more than 4,000 last year.”
And the pace hasn’t slowed in 2021.
“So far, we are tracking up seven and a half percent, over last year,” Hodges said.
Hodges wants county residents to know him and all Effingham County Fire & Rescue personnel before they are needed. The department features 51 full-time employees and 35 volunteers.
“Our vision is to be as involved in the community as we can,” he said. “The citizens have been completely supportive of the fire department and we want to make sure that we are living up to that high standard that is expected. Also, we don’t want to people to see us just when it’s bad.
“We want them to see us in the good times. We want everyone to know us so that, when we get to your house (in an emergency), hopefully that is not the first time you have seen us.”
Effingham County Fire & Rescue seeks to limit interactions in unfortunate circumstances through public safety campaigns.
“We hit every student in pre-K through the third grade every year, (with prevention tips),” Hodges said. “We’ve had kids find hazards in their house that they pointed out to family members. If that’s one less response we have to make, we are making a difference.”
The Guyton City Council recently lauded Effingham County Fire & Rescue for its community contributions. He said he knows his department is widely supported.
“We are lucky because that is not the case everywhere,” he said.