North Charleston Fire pushes to join forces with Summerville

North Charleston fire pushes to join forces with Summerville


When your house catches on fire, every second it takes fire crews to respond is vital. Cutting down on those seconds is one of North Charleston Fire Chief Greg Bulanow's big goals. One way he's trying to do it - joining forces with other agencies.

"In the event of a house fire, the closest units to that location will respond automatically," said Chief Greg Bulanow, North Charleston Fire Department.

It's a strategy called Automatic Aid, and Bulanow wants to use it with Summerville.
"Automatic aid will make nearly any response time better than they currently are," said Bulanow.

North Charleston Fire already has a separate Automatic Aid agreement with with fire crews for Charleston, James and Johns islands.
It's created a web of 800 accessible firefighters. Now, Bulanow wants to bring Summerville into the mix, which would bump the overall fleet closer to 1,000.

"Now is a good time to work together especially as our communities have grown closer together," said Bulanow.
Summerville Fire Chief Richard Waring agrees, telling Live 5 he feels this will be mutually beneficial to their communities. Costs will be shared and monitored to ensure they're balanced fairly.

Beyond shrinking response times and possibly limiting the spread of a destructive fire, Bulanow says other benefits make this ideal for both agencies.

"A reduction to the coverage gaps that occur when units respond to emergencies and an increased capability to respond to major incidents, together as a seamless force," said Bulanow.

In order for the Automatic Aid program to work, Bulanow says the agencies have to have compatible communication systems. It was one hurdle that Summerville and North Charleston had to work through, because they use different dispatch systems.

Thursday, the North Charleston Public Safety Committee will vote on the agreement. If approved, it will go on to the full council for a vote.
Bulanow says North Charleston City Council and Mayor Summey have been supportive.

Even if it does pass, more training with Summerville and North Charleston fire crews will be necessary.

"For automatic aid to work well, the forces need to train together regularly," said Bulanow.

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