Darlington Fire Department putting industry donations to work


by Samantha Lyles

With some help from local businesses and hard work from firefighters, the Darlington Fire Department’s training facility on Broad Street is expanding to include new and inventive simulation scenes.

About four years ago, DFD took over the city-owned Broad Street building that formerly housed Weaver Electric. On their own time, department members – a skilled crew that includes contractors and electricians – kitted out the building like a typical house, with hallways, three bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom stocked with used furniture, fixtures, and appliances. Add in a powerful smoke machine and the makeshift home becomes an invaluable asset, a place where firefighters can complete required training quickly, in a locale convenient to home and work.

Since firefighters must be ready to tackle blazes in a variety of settings, including industrial sites, DFD Chief Pat Cavanaugh says the department wanted to expand the training site to incorporate some new challenges. To make it happen, DFD last year secured the donation of 8 shipping containers from B.B. Hobbs, and two weeks ago added a steel catwalk system, stairs, and a silo donated by the Hartsville Oil Mill.

“A shipping container is valued at $3,000 and we got eight of them donated. (Hartsville Oil Mill) donated about $15,000 to $20,000 worth of steel. We can use that catwalk system and silo to do confined space industrial fire training,” Cavanaugh says.

The durable shipping containers will provide a safe, confined space to conduct a variety of fire training exercises which cannot be done in the wood-framed training house.

“We’re going to set up a nice live burn building where we can do not only house fires, but industrial fire training,” says Cavanaugh.

The containers and equipment were disassembled, cleaned up and readied for relocation by department members, with transportation support donated by Signs Plus and Bill Garland Trucking. DFD has also received donations of lumber and plywood from Darlington Veneer Mill and Builder’s First Source. Cavanaugh and Asst. Chief Charles Bailey say that if the department had to pay for all the labor and materials donated, the training site would have cost at least $100,000, but thanks to the generosity of local businesses and citizens, DFD has only invested sweat equity in the project.

Eventually, the assortment of pieces will become a cohesive mock industrial site, with three containers stacked high and the silo and catwalk system in the corner of the training lot. Cavanaugh says the completed site could be used to train active duty firefighters as well as industrial fire and safety crews.

“Any department that has a need, we would be happy to let them use it,” says Cavanaugh.

All of the work to wire, plumb, rough out and ready the training sets will be done by Darlington Fire Department members, donating their talents and time. Cavanaugh says that while they’ve already done some live burn fire study in the shipping containers, the industrial aspect of the training facility is a long-range project that could take 18 months to finish.

When it’s up and running, the DFD training site could become more than a training site. Cavanaugh envisions using the facility as a way to educate the public about fire hazards and possibly recruit new firefighters into the service.

“Once this is all said and done, I’d like to have a community day where anyone who wants to see what it’s like to be a firefighter can come on in. We’ll put some gear on you and you can walk through the scene and see what it’s really like,” Cavanaugh says.

Author: Rachel Howell

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