DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Fire protection services are changing for residents in two Dorchester County communities now.
At midnight on Wednesday, the Dorchester County County Fire Department took over operation of two fire stations that were part of the Old Fort Fire District.
The county is now running the fire station in the Ponds neighborhood off of Highway 17-A and the station on Highway 78 in Jedburg.
County fire Chief Tres Atkinson says the county chose to not renew its contract with Old Fort.
"Council's ultimate goal when we started in 2013 was to be a countywide fire service," Atkinson said.
Atkinson says the department has hired 23 additional firefighters, some who came from the Old Fort Fire District.
He says residents can expect to see good response times, more manpower and eventually lower insurance rates.
Arlene Wheeler is not convinced.
Wheeler, of Knightsville, started a petition drive last year to try to stop the changeover.
"We're losing a fire station that served my area. I'll be more than five miles from the fire station at this point and the one I have to deal with is across the railroad tracks," Wheeler said.
That lost station is the former Old Fort Fire station located at Central Avenue and Orangeburg Road.
Atkinson says the county closed that one because Summerville has a fire station a quarter mile away from there.
He says the county and city now have an automatic aid agreement.
"It's now gonna be the closest fire truck to whatever the situation may be," Atkinson explained.
Wheeler is taking a wait and see attitude.
"I guess we have to deal with it and hope that nothing bad really happens out there," Wheeler said.
The Old Fort Fire district still operates three fire stations.