By Meghan Daniel for The Island Eye News
The Fire Department, considered for good reason to be the soul of Sullivan’s Island, is in the process of getting a new home – sort of.
Built in 1991 at 2050 Middle St., the current fire station will be renovated inside and out, while the storage building at the same location, built in 2000, is slated to be replaced with a larger and more useful structure.
The town began reviewing the fate of the existing buildings in July 2018, and, since then, has worked with an architect to draft plans for the renovations.
“The initial study of the structure revealed the need to replace the exterior cladding, windows, insulation and roof repairs. Further review and consideration addressed space needs for living quarters, training and operations during emergency situations,” Town Administrator Andy Benke pointed out.
The work will include new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, Benke said.
During construction, the Fire Department will be housed at what is known as the fish fry shack at Station 15 and Hennessey.
The new storage building will consist of a pre-engineered metal building frame and, like the fire station, will feature exterior cladding to match that of Town Hall. Four bays, as well as multiple offices, were included in the plans published in the request for qualifications posted by the town in late August of this year.
Benke said the new building would provide “the ability to perform routine maintenance work on equipment and the ability to expand conditioned office space as needed.”
After reviewing 12 qualifications packages, the town chose Trident Construction of North Charleston as the general contractor. Work is currently underway and is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2022.
Sullivan’s Island is home to a highly-rated, Class 1 Fire Department, but, besides providing top-of-the-line fire protection and emergency first responder services, the department engages with the community in other ways that are just as important.
In addition to being “always standing by at the ready to respond during times of natural disaster,” Benke pointed out, the Fire Department serves the Sullivan’s Island community in other vital ways. Perhaps the department gets most of its visibility at two yearly fundraisers. For 70 years, staff and volunteers of the SIFD have hosted an annual fish fry, bringing thousands of residents and visitors together for good food coupled with live entertainment. Although the 2020 fish fry fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, in a letter published in The Island Eye News on June 4, Mayor Pat O’Neil encouraged local residents to continue to support the SIFD, a pillar of the community, by either mailing in donations or dropping them off at the station or Town Hall.
Much of the equipment used by the Fire & Rescue Squad, he reminded readers, is purchased using money from fundraisers such as the fish fry. Pandemic or no pandemic, the show must go on for the SIFD.
The department was able to host its annual oyster roast in early spring, prior to the widespread outbreak of the pandemic. For 22 consecutive years, crowds have cracked open their wallets for tickets to crack open countless oyster shells. Like the fish fry, money raised from this popular event funds the resources needed by the department to ensure the staff and volunteers have sufficient up-to-date equipment.
The community-related activities of the department also help to cement the unbreakable bond between the town of Sullivan’s island and its Fire Department.