fire station groundbreaking pic

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in the lot next to Kingstree Town Hall to celebrate the construction of a facility that will house the fire and police stations. Photo by Michaele Duke

Two men, dressed in official uniforms stood on a muddy spot in the middle of a lot in Kingstree. They were watching bulldozers work the earth. Kingstree Police Chief Andre Williams and Kingstree Fire Chief Tim Duke are witnessing a vision come to fruition.

On November 1, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in the lot next to Kingstree Town Hall to celebrate the construction of a facility that will house both departments. It’s only taken 30 years.

Senator Ronnie Sabb, Representative Cezar McKnight, councilmembers, architects and engineers were among those attending the ceremony. Mayor Darren Tisdale and Town Manager Richard Treme thanked everyone involved with the endeavor.

The layout of the stations is designed to separate the departments at each end with a five apparatus bay located in the middle. Treme said the 19,000 square foot facility is expected to be finished next spring, weather permitting. “If the weather doesn’t permit, we’ve been waiting 30 years for it and so it’s not going to matter,” Treme said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Duke was nearly speechless. “Words can’t describe it,” said the 25-year veteran of the department. “It’s been a roller coaster.” Duke recalled the days since Hurricane Hugo destroyed the building that was originally located on Mill Street. The operation was moved to a lot in the back of town hall, which housed a S.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) shed. “Thirty years, 11 days to the day,” he said. “The old fire chief said we were just going to be there temporarily. It’s been a long temporary.”

Police Chief Williams arrived in April 2018 but is just as excited. His department is currently housed in what was the DOT. The tiny rooms are barley adequate to hold more than a few people, let alone an adequate evidence room and report storage. All of that, as well as showers and locker rooms which are not present in the current station, will be part of the new construction. Local contractors have been hired for various jobs regarding the construction.

Williams thanked many, including the fire chief for pushing it, council for approving it and the citizens for supporting the one-cent sales tax that made the venture possible. “We’re excited because we’re getting more up-to-date technology,” he said after throwing a shovel full of damp clay. “It’s just a beautiful thing. The city is working good together, why not have a beautiful building to show it.”