History - Lee County Fire Department

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The Lee County Fire Department was formed by the Lee County Delegation of Senator Ed B. Baskins and Representative Jacob Jennings in 1958 by act of Legislature. The first chief and chairman of the Lee County Rural Fire Commission was John L. O’Kelley, Sr. In 1958 two International with fire bodies was purchased.  One truck was located at the Lee County Prison Farm near Bishopville with the other located in Lynchburg. In 1961 the county was able to purchase a 2000 gallon tractor trailer tanker. In 1964 Chief John O’Kelley, Sr. resigned and retired from the department. From O’Kelley’s retirement until 1967 Commissioner H.L. Jordan ran the department and John E. Foxworth was the only paid firefighter. In October of 1967 John O’Kelly, Jr., joined the Lee County Fire Department and became the Captain and acting chief of the department. In 1970, he was appointed by Lee County Council as Chief of the Lee County Fire Department and held that position for 17 years. Under his leadership, the fire department increased the number of firemen in 1969 to six and in 1971 it increased to nine with six being with the Bishopville Department and four with the Lynchburg Department.  In 1970 the Bishopville truck and Tanker were moved from the old fire station in Bishopville on Council Street. The Lynchburg truck was located at the old Lynchburg High School.  In 1974 the department received two 1974 International trucks with Howe Fire bodies and Waterous pumps, they were stationed in Bishopville (Truck 1) and Lynchburg (Truck2) .The old Bishopville truck was moved to the Una Alcot(Truck 4) area and the  old Lynchburg truck was moved to the Ashwood School (Truck 3). Bishopville, Lynchburg, Una Alcot and Ashwood were ISO rating class 9. In the Late 1970’s Fire Station # 14 was built in the Una Alcot area. In March of 1983, Station # 11 was built on East Church Street in Bishopville.  The station on East Council Street then moved to East Church Street. In April of 1983, Station 13 was built on US Highway 15 South at Williamson Road. In May of 1983, county council authorized the forming of Station #17, Black River Station in the St. Charles Area. The Station was first located at the St. Charles Gin until the station was built on US 401 near Dog Island Road in 1986. In the late 1980s, the Lee County Council formed the Lee County Fire Department Board of Commissioners consisting of the seven station captains to oversee buying and purchasing of equipment. The Chief John L. O’Kelley, Jr. served as the first chairman of the board and remained in that position until 1985. The Chief acted as the liaison officer on the board. In the late 80’s the entire county was now in a class 9 insurance rating outside the corporate limits of Bishopville and Lynchburg. The incorporated areas and Station 14 were class 7. At this time the Lee County Fire Department consisted of seven fire stations divided seven districts with 15 pieces of rolling apparatus with 100 volunteer’s firefighters. All units had radios and firefighters had pagers to notify them. The department averaged around 275 calls a year. In 1989, William R. “Bubba” Copeland took duties as the County’s Fire Chief. Under his direction the department operated with seven stations and fourteen trucks. The stations were as followed Station 11 (Bishopville), Station 12 (Lynchburg), Station 13 (Ashwood), Station 14 (Una- Alcot), Station 15 (Red Hill), Station 16 (Turkey Creek), and Station 17 (Black River). During this period fire apparatus was up graded to an engine and tanker at each station. The department had approximately 60 members strong. Copeland left the department in 1998. In May of 1999, Tres Atkinson was named Chief. The department continued to grow with almost 110 members and 26 pieces of apparatus that include a Hazmat Unit and Rescue Unit.  Five new fire engines were purchased from 1999- 2001. In 2004 the Department built new stations in the Ashland and Calvary Church Road Communities. In 2004 the Lee County Fire Department and Bishopville Fire Department merged to form one consolidated department. At that time the departments paid staffing was 1 Chief, 1 Division Chief, and 3 Engineers. In the summer of 2005 the department was evaluated by the ISO and received a rating of Class 4 within the City of Bishopville and Class 6/9 in unincorporated areas. In 2006 Chief Tres Atkinson resigned from the Department and Mike Bedenbaugh was named as Chief.  

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