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Columbia Enacts State of Emergency Following Afternoon of Protests

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Following demonstrations that turned violent in the City of Columbia on Saturday May 30, 2020, city leaders passed an emergency ordinance declaring a curfew for the downtown area. The curfew will apply within the boundaries of Sumter Street, Huger Street, Elmwood Avenue and Pendleton Street until Monday morning June 1, 2020 at 6:00 a.m.

Residents are being asked to return home during the time frame of the curfew and to not assemble in common areas such as streets, parks and other public areas.

Full details of the ordinance can be found below:

ORDINANCE NO.: 2020-052
Declaring a State of Emergency and Enacting an Emergency Curfew

WHEREAS, by Ordinance No.: 2020-037 enacted on April 9, 2020, the Mayor and City Council imposed a curfew beginning on Friday, April 10, 2020 restricting travel and gatherings from 11:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. with the exception of persons traveling to and from work and for healthcare, which ordinance would automatically expire on the 61st day after enactment; and,

WHEREAS, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd died while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. Since Mr. Floyd’s death, many have expressed their frustration in a peaceful and constructive manner. Demonstrators have gathered to protest Mr. Floyd’s death. While peaceful demonstrations are essential to our democratic system, some individuals have engaged in unlawful and dangerous activity. These activities threaten the safety of lawful demonstrators, the surrounding communities, and first responders; and,

WHEREAS, events of Saturday, May 30, 2020 have resulted in property and personal damage and unlawful conduct; and,

WHEREAS, City Council finds that it is in the best interest of the public to protect public health and the general welfare of the public to enact a state of emergency and to extend the temporary curfew immediately rather than suffer the unfortunate and devastating consequences later; NOW, THEREFORE,

BE ORDAINED by the Mayor and City Council of the City of Columbia, South Carolina this 30th day of May, 2020 that a state of emergency is hereby enacted and effective immediately within the boundaries of Sumter Street, Pendleton Street, Huger Street and Elmwood Avenue requiring all individuals to return to their residences and remain off of all common areas, including but not limited to streets, parks, rights of way and other public spaces effective at 6:00 p.m. Saturday, May 30, 2020 until 6:00 a.m., Monday, June 1, 2020; and,

BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED that the curfew restricting travel shall not apply to persons traveling to and from work and for healthcare; and,

BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED that during the curfew, the following persons are exempted and free to travel to carry out their duties: police officers, firefighters, active duty military, health care providers, essential government personnel, and public works and utility workers employed by any public utility, the City of Columbia, the Counties of Richland and Lexington, the State of South Carolina and the United States of America.

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Community Project Helping FD Maintain Mask Supply During COVID-19 Pandemic

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As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread across the state of South Carolina and the nation, one critical goal on the minds of first responders is maintaining proper supplies of protective equipment.

While the Columbia-Richland Fire Department continues to have supplies of masks, gloves and other items to protect firefighters in stock – department leaders have been carefully looking at one way to maximize the life of these products. That research and collaboration has now led to the department acquiring multiple devices that can decontaminate medical response equipment using ultraviolet light.

A demonstration of the equipment was conducted at CRFD Station 3 on Thursday April 30, 2020. 

“It really is a fascinating way to ensure that each mask is used for as long as it safely can be,” said Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, “Going forward we’re going to look at every opportunity to save a mask using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI). I applaud our community partners who have worked tirelessly to develop these devices to help keep our firefighters safe in the line of duty.”

Several past studies and scientific research have shown that types of ultraviolet radiation have the power to inactivate a wide range of human pathogens, including coronavirus and other human respiratory viruses. Similar projects aimed at using UVGI to decontaminate items have been launched by fire departments and public safety agencies across the country.

The Columbia-Richland Fire Department’s UVGI devices were developed and tested by a small group of private citizens led by physical therapist Rich Wachtel and Chris Yenkey, a professor of International Business at the University of South Carolina. Readings of ultraviolet radiation on the machines were verified by faculty from the Electrical Engineering Department’s Photonics and Microelectronics Laboratory at USC using specialized equipment. University staff also assisted CRFD in developing protocols for use of the devices. Officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) also provided consultation.

Resembling a small cabinet, each UVGI devices is outfitted with lights capable of producing UV-C radiation. Over the course of several days the fire department developed guidelines for staff to turn in masks for decontamination. 

After being suspended in the UVGI machines on a rack and exposed to the lights for a period of several minutes, the masks are then considered clean and can be sent back to their individual staff members for continued use. Three machines have been outfitted in a trailer to facilitate the decontamination process. Over a period of a few hours hundreds of masks can be decontaminated using the system.

This process will only be used for masks that HAVE NOT been directly contacted by discharges of a possible COVID-19 patient. Those masks will be discarded and immediately replaced. All fire department personnel are also wearing face shields while on medical calls to add an extra layer of protection and reduce the chance of COVID-19 exposure.

The Columbia-Richland Fire Department extends its deepest thanks to its partners at the University of South Carolina, SC DHEC and the community at large for their work on this project.

For more information on the UV devices and the collaboration that has gone into their development, click here.

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Cub Scout Pack Virtually Visits Fire Department

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On  Sunday April 26 members of Cub Scout Pack 287 got a real treat as they were able to virtually visit CRFD Headquarters on Laurel Street.

Fire Education Officer Bengie Leverett conducted the tour, which included a look at the department’s fire museum and truck bay.

The Fire Education Office is offering free tours of our fire stations to groups. To schedule one you can contact Officer Leverett by sending an email to bengie.leverett@columbiasc.gov

 

 

 

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Building Inspections & Home Safety Surveys Can Now Be Done Virtually

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Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Columbia-Richland Fire Department is now making it possible for business owners to have fire inspections done virtually. 

If you are in need of an inspection for your business and it is located within the City of Columbia here is the process to follow:

  • all virtual inspections must be scheduled!
  • you can schedule an inspection by contacting Fire Marshal George Adams at (803)545-3701 or by sending an email to george.adams@columbiasc.gov 

 

  • prior to the date of the virtual inspection:
    • customers must have a step-ladder, flashlight and tape measure
    • you must also have a smartphone or tablet connected to Wi-Fi or 4G wireless service. Either Zoom (all devices) or FaceTime (Apple OS devices) are required to host the video call. You can check your mobile device’s app store to download.
    • finally you must turn off notifcations for your tablet or phone. You then accept the incoming video call when initiated.

 

  • during the virtual inspection:
    • follow all directions
    • begin the call at street view looking at structure with the address showing
    • you must then walk the exterior of the structure in a clockwise direction if applicable.
    • then walk the inspection from the rear to the front of the building. If the building is two floors walk the inspection from top to bottom.
    • make any notes of what requires correction

 

  • following the inspection:
    • CRFD will record all results
    • the client will be notified if the business has passed or failed. Regardless of whether the business has failed or passed –all violations noted must be corrected

 

The department is also now offering virtual home fire safety surveys for area property owners throughout the City of Columbia and Richland County. You can schedule one by contacting Fire Education Officer Bengie Leverett by sending an email to bengie.leverett@columbiasc.gov or calling (803)545-4162. Follow the same guidelines above before and during the safety survey.

 

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Parades Bring Hope & Support During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Throughout the month of April 2020 the Columbia-Richland Fire Department took part in several parades to thank essential workers who continued to serve during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

In honor of National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, CRFD firetrucks processed in one parade from Columbia City Hall to the city’s 9-1-1 Department on Friday April 17, 2020. The department was joined in that parade by our partners at the Columbia Police Department, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Richland County EMS and the Richland County Coroner’s Office. Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin also took part.

One week later on April 24 another parade made its way from CRFD Headquarters to Prisma Health Richland & Prisma Health Baptist hospitals.

Staff at both facilities would line the sidewalks outside of their buildings as first responders gave a well-deserved ‘Thank You’ to those working on the front lines of the pandemic.

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2-Alarm Fire Burns 3 Homes in Richland County

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Three homes on Fountain Lake Road were left damaged after a 2-Alarm fire broke out in the early morning hours of April 11. 

The fire started in one of the homes before 2:30 a.m. Flames then quickly spread to two neighboring properties. Two of the three homes were left so badly damaged that they are uninhabitable. A total of five people were left displaced.

No injuries were reported. An investigation later determined that the fire started in the garage of the primary home near the water heater.

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Fire Damages Old Chemical Facility

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Columbia-Richland fire crews responded to a massive fire that spread to several buildings of a vacated commercial property off of South Beltline Boulevard on Thursday April 9, 2020.

The property near Shop Road used to be home to the Cardinal Chemical Company. No one was found at the property when firefighters arrived on scene shortly after 3:30 p.m. on April 9.

Heavy fire was found in one of the buildings on the property and then it quickly spread to other sections. Firefighters were able to attack the fire from above using several ladder trucks. Crews were later able to get the fire completely under control once several tanker trucks were able to access the scene.

About 40 CRFD personnel responded to the scene. The Fort Jackson Fire Department also provided support.

No injuries were reported.

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CRFD Sounds ‘Sirens for Solidarity’ Amid COVID-19 Unrest

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On Friday April 3, 2020 the Columbia-Richland Fire Department would join several other area first responding agencies in sounding sirens to bolster hope during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

At 7:00 p.m. all department fire crews that were not on emergency service calls at the time sounded the sirens on their firetrucks for a period of 30 seconds. Many participating companies sounded their sirens from out in front of their respective stations.

The focus behind the campaign was to let citizens know that first responders will still be here to serve them during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Irmo Fire District, the Lexington County Fire Service and several other public safety agencies in Lexington County also took part in the initiative.

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ATF Offers Reward for Information Connected to 2-Alarm Church Fire

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Federal officials are currently offering a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information related to a church fire that happened in Columbia on March 19, 2020.

Columbia-Richland fire crews responded to the Whaley Street United Methodist Church just before midnight. When firefighters arrived on scene they found fire coming from several windows of the building. No one was inside the church at the time and there were no injuries reported.

Crews were able to contain the fire to its room of origin. The South Carolia Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was then called in to investigate, which is standard procedure in response to all church fires.

The ATF is now offering the reward for information. According to federal investigators it has been determined that an incendiary agent was used to start the fire. ATF is assisting the Columbia Police Department and the Columbia-Richland Fire Department in this ongoing investigation.

Anyone with information about the fire is encouraged to call ATF’s toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-888-ATF-TIPS (1-888-283-8477).

For more information about ATF, go to www.atf.gov.

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Department to Sound ‘Sirens for Solidarity’ Friday Evening April 3

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As the spread of COVID-19 continues to grip our state, the Columbia Richland Fire Department will join other area public safety agencies in an initiative to remind the public that first responders are still here to serve.

The department will be taking part in ‘Sirens for Solidarity’ on the evening of Friday, April 3, 2020. At 7 p.m. all firetrucks that are at department stations will sound their alarms and flash their lights for 30 to 45 seconds. The purpose of this is to convey a message to our citizens that through the long and difficult days ahead first responders will continue to provide the highest quality of service possible.

“I’m excited to join our partners in the fire service and public safety as a whole by taking part in this initiative,” said Columbia Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, “In these uncertain times we want the communities we serve to understand that the COVID-19 crisis will not stop first responders from providing protection and security. It is our constant mission that will not waver in the face of this pandemic.”

CRFD will be joining the Irmo Fire District, the Lexington County Fire Service and other area public safety agencies in the campaign. Area fire departments are also working on new ways to promote fire safety in communities over the coming weeks as residents continue to stay home due to the virus.