LAURINBURG — Prevention has become a large part of the job for fire service personnel, according to Laurinburg Fire Chief Randy Gibson.
Gibson, the city’s first full-time fire chief, told members of the local Rotary Club on Tuesday that, along with fire code enforcement and extinguishing fires, injury and fire prevention “is a very big part of our responsibilities.”
“We even work closely with the 811 digging prevention group to alert homeowners of the dangers with gas lines and electrical lines underground,” he added.
Gibson spent some time showing the group how the fire service has changed over the years — all the way from bucket brigades to horse-drawn apparatus to the modern ladder trucks and pumpers.
“Fire services has evolved quite a bit since the early days in Laurinburg,” he said. “Just outfitting a firefighter today will cost about $8,000.
Gibson, who oversees two stations within the city — Station No. 1 on North Main Street and Station No. 6 on Hickory Street — explained there are six fire departments in Scotland County, along with the N.C. Forestry Service, providing residents with fire protection. He said the five departments outside the city are all volunteer manned stations. Laurinburg is part paid and part volunteer.
“Each of the six departments have between 25 and 40 volunteers,” Gibson said. “We’re really very fortunate right now in Scotland County to have the volunteer force we do — and all of the men and women are grateful to serve.”
He went on to explain how insurance ratings are established, saying the ratings are based on the fire department’s active roster and equipment, water supply, communications and community risk reduction. Ratings are given from 1, which is the best, to 10.
The city of Laurinburg is currently rated as a Class 4.
“We just barely missed out on being a Class 3,” Gibson said. “Over the years we’ve usually been a Class 5.”
Something the county can look forward to with improving its fire rating is the opening of two new fire substations — one located near the water tower off U.S. 401 and the other on Gum Swamp Lake Road in Laurel Hill.
“There are still a few minor things to be completed before the county fire marshal can come inspect them, which we hope will be in September,” Gibson said.
In wrapping up his presentation, Gibson emphasized that the city’s fire personnel often work with local groups, organizations, businesses and others on community events and training exercises. Those have included the “hot car” demonstration, a mock accident at Scotland County Hospital, training at the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport and working structure fires with abandoned residences that have been donated to the fire department.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3023 or [email protected]