Dedicated firefighters serve Sumter during hard day

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 1/21/18

Friday was one of those days the Sumter Fire Department plans for in its motto.

Hours after fighting a gigantic warehouse fire on Hauser Street at the Lafayette Bridge just south of downtown Sumter, firefighters - both volunteer and career - were …

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Dedicated firefighters serve Sumter during hard day

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Friday was one of those days the Sumter Fire Department plans for in its motto.

Hours after fighting a gigantic warehouse fire on Hauser Street at the Lafayette Bridge just south of downtown Sumter, firefighters - both volunteer and career - were called back to action to fight two house fires at the same time when a blaze spread from one residence to its next-door neighbor in Sumter Historic District on Friday.

"It was pretty intense," Capt. Matthew Ray said. "But we train for this kind of thing."

The strain on the 25 firefighters littered throughout the 500 block of McQueen Street at West Hampton Avenue on Friday afternoon was evident. They looked tired, thirsty, sweaty, grimy. They also looked dedicated. And driven. And part of a team.

Some, but not many, firefighters worked both that fire and one that engulfed 200,000 square feet of warehouse filled with plastic and carpet fibers on Hauser Street at the Lafeyette Bridge starting at 4 a.m. Friday. Every firefighter, volunteer and career, was called in Friday, whether to man the stations, work other calls across the county or respond to one of these two.

They handed each other water, picked up oxygen tanks and masks for each other and packed them onto their brothers' backs.

"We always say we plan for the worst and hope for the best," Ray said. "That's what today was."

It was the worst because a homeowner, though he wasn't living there, lost everything, and a family of two adults and five children may also have. They certainly are displaced and must deal with loss, regardless of the investigation's bottom line of if the house is a total loss or not.

It was what Ray and his team hope for, if a situation like this must happen.

No loss of life. No injury. Something in that second house may be saved because of the work of Sumter's firefighters.

"For us, it's just what you do. It keeps you going," Ray said. "To be able to help these people in need, however that is."