Berkeley County Rescue Squad to disband after 51 years

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The Berkeley County Rescue squad is officially disbanding after 51 years, Berkeley County Council announced at its meeting Monday night.

The group of volunteers has worked for 51 helping local first responders with search and rescue missions.

"All good things come to an end," Bill Salisbury, Chief of the Berkeley County Rescue Squad, said. "It's time for us to dissolve."

The decision was made by the rescue squad's board of directors. City council was just alerted of the change last week.

Salisbury also works as the County Coroner. He's been part of the rescue squad for 48 years.

"It's kind of tough for me," Salisbury said.

Though it may be tough, Salisbury is confident it's the right decision.

Recently, the rescue squad has struggled to recruit volunteers. The squad's call volume has also gone down significantly.

Once the transition is complete, all of the rescue squad's assets will go to the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office. That includes several rescue boats, ATVs, dive equipment and even a camper.

The squad also recently added a drone to its equipment list, a donation made by Skyview Aerial Solutions.

The Berkeley County Rescue Squad is working to ensure all of that equipment will still be used by the Sheriff's Office for rescue purposes.

"It's not really going to change a lot, it will just enable us to utilize the equipment that the rescue squad has, those assets," said Sheriff Duane Lewis of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office.

The one thing the transition will change is who makes the rescues. The rescue squad has always been volunteer only. Currently, the squad is made of about 20 volunteers. But once the Sheriff's Office takes over, only people who are paid will be using the squad's equipment.

Still, the sheriff's office is mindful of the current volunteers.

"We are exploring the idea of bringing on some of the rescue squad members that are currently there," Lewis said.

Regardless of how the sheriff's office decides to move forward, Salisbury is confident he's leaving the assets in good hands.

"We would like to see the rescue squad continue and serve the people of Berkeley county," Salisbury said. "And the sheriff can do a fine job of providing that service."

The group of volunteers will keep working as usual for the next few months while they make the transition.

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