Never forget where you came from...
One day in early 1970, the City of Florence Fire Department responded to a house fire in Tara Village. Once the City arrived on scene they made every effort to extinguish the fire until their water supply was exhausted. Meanwhile, neighbors grabbed water hoses and sprayed water on the home next door to keep it cool. These neighbors, Earl Liner, Charlie Tripp Sr., Bill Neal, and J.W. Jackson decided that their community needed a fire department. These four men felt so badly for the woman who just lost her house that they began meeting privately in their homes to do something about it.
The first official meeting for organizing a rural fire department was held August 27, 1970 with 44 persons present. In this meeting there were people who offered donations that would be essential in starting the Fire Dept… A special meeting of the Board of Directors was held on Sept. 10, 1970 at which the Bi-Laws were established and a file for Charter was drawn up. The Charter was granted by State of South Carolina on Sept. 22, 1970.
The first year, under the direction if Chief Jessie Benton, Howe Springs operated with 2 trucks covering a large area including up to the Town of Timmonsville, Lynches River, Hoffmeyer Rd., and the Hyman community. Some fund raising projects that helped get Howe Springs on their feet include the $10,000 Club, raffling of a pinto car, turkey shoot, and a fire extinguisher sale. Howe Springs first truck was a 1942 Ford open cab pumper. In February of 1971, a 1957 GMC pumper was obtained from Mullins Rural Fire Dept. Howe Springs had not yet secured a building so apparatus was being parked in a barn. Any time there was a fire the first thing the firemen had to do is get a flash light and look for snakes. The firemen were delayed on a couple of occasions due to trying to coax a snake out of the truck.
The dispatching of our fires was done by Ms. Letha Morris. Ms. Morris dispatched us by the old reliable Southern Bell Telephone system for the first couple of years. After that Ms. Morris used a CB radio to dispatch the firemen and shortly thereafter started using the low band radio system. Ms. Morris also started dispatching the Windy Hill F.D in May of 1973 and was vital part of the success in our County’s fire service. It was not until the 1990’s that we starting using a central dispatch center and switched over to the 800mhz system.
In the early part of 1977, Howe Springs expanded to open a sub-station in Claussen and Evergreen. These new stations helped to lower our ISO rating to 7/9 and provided better fire protection in our area. In the early part of 1982, the Cussac community started a fundraiser that provided them with a station and some trucks that would eventually become a Howe Springs sub- station. In the early 1990’s a substation was built on Hwy. 52. With these and other apparatus additions we were able to bring our ISO rating to a 5 in 2005. In 2006 another sub-station was added in the Savannah Grove community.
The Howe Springs Jr. Fire Dept. was restarted in 1980 under the direction of Donnie Lee and Joe Batista. In 1984, under the direction of Earl Liner, the Jr. Fire Department built Howe Springs first service truck that was placed in service in the winter of 1984. In 2007, the Jr. program became Explorer Post 711 and allows girls and boys betweens the age of 14 to 17 the ability to participate in fire dept. activities.
In 1988, the Howe Springs Fire Department was responding to MVA’s at the request of EMS when there was an extended response time from rescue. After several times of needing extrication equipment on scene, the department decided to become trained and equipped to handle rescue calls. The department has extrication equipment on the first out pumpers and rescue apparatus. In the late 1990’s we also took on the responsibility of running medical first responder calls.
And since we are discussing the history of the department, I would like to make a special recognition to Earl Liner. Earl was one of those concerned neighbors that decided that there was a need for this department and through his commitment and dedication our department is as successful as it is today. Earl faithfully served for over 37 yrs and retired as an honorary member in 2013. Thanks Earl for giving us such great history.