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Citizens encouraged to make fire escape plans, check smoke alarms as Fire Prevention Week 2019 gets underway

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National Fire Prevention Week will once again usher in a call for all residents to prepare for the unexpected. Staff with Columbia Richland Fire are encouraging everyone to live out the theme of this year’s week – ‘Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.’

“These words could not hit the point home more. If a major fire breaks out in your home EVERYONE should be equipped with the knowledge of what to do and how to escape safely,” said Columbia Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, “All citizens should make fire escape planning a top priority with their families, especially if they have small children. Having that plan in place could wind up saving your life and the lives of the ones you love.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, which sets the theme for fire prevention week, only one of every three American households have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. Additionally, one-third of American households who made an estimate thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life threatening. In reality the time available is often less.

Here are some key tips to get your fire escape planning started for your home or business:

  • Draw a map of your property. Show all doors and windows.
  • Visit each room. Find 2 ways out!
  • All windows and doors should open easily! You should be able to use them to get outside.
  • Make sure your home has smoke alarms. Push the test button to ensure the alarm is working.
  • Pick a meeting place outside for everyone to meet. It should be somewhere in front of your home or business.
  • Make sure your house or building number can be seen from the street.
  • Talk about your plan with everyone in your home! Make sure they know what to do!
  • Learn the emergency phone number for your fire department!
  • PRACTICE your home fire drill! Also – take time to practice it at night and practice using different ways to get out.
  • Commit to practicing your fire escape plan with your family at least twice a year!

You can find additional information on fire escape planning by visiting NFPA’s website here. A grid is also available for you to draw out a fire escape plan for your home.

In addition to having a fire escape plan area residents are also encouraged to check their smoke alarms. The NFPA reports that roughly 3 out of 5 fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Working smoke alarms give you an early warning so you can escape a fire quickly!


  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom. They should also be outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Install alarms in the basement.
  • Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.
  • It is best to use interconnected smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound.
  • Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
  • Current alarms on the market employ different types of technology including multi-sensing, which could include smoke and carbon monoxide combined.
  • Today’s smoke alarms will be more technologically advanced to respond to a multitude of fire conditions, yet mitigate false alarms.
  • A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from the stove.
  • People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms. These alarms have strobe lights and bed shakers.
  • Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old!



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Firetrucks Taking to Greenview Community for 2019 Fire Prevention Parade

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Columbia Richland Fire will once again be bringing the message of fire safety to area streets as this year the annual Fire Prevention Parade will roll through neighborhoods around Greenview Park.

The parade will commence near David and Gabriel streets on the morning of Saturday, October 12, 2019 at 11 a.m. Multiple firetrucks will then proceed down parts of David Street until they arrive at the park.

After the parade a community block party will be held, which will feature food, games, firetrucks and plenty of fire safety information to share.

“As sworn members of the fire service it is not only our duty to protect the public when a major fire breaks out but also spread information and education to prevent fires from happening,” Columbia Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins said.

“This parade is our way of making that goal fun and engaging for area families,” Jenkins added, “Last year I was thrilled with the results of our fire prevention parade when we took it off of Main Street and into the hearts of communities. I’m looking forward to having the same impact with this year’s event.”

Parade participants will meet near the intersection of David Street and Gabriel Street at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, October 12.

The theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week is ‘Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.’

                    Photos from the 2018 Fire Prevention Parade on Barhamville Rd in Columbia

The department STRONGLY encourages area residents to create and practice emergency escape plans for their homes. Work with your family to develop a plan with TWO ways out of every room and drill the plan often.

Residents are also encouraged to test their smoke alarms at least once a month and install them inside and outside each sleeping area AND on all floors of your home.

To register for this year’s Fire Prevention Parade, contact Fire Education Officer Bengie Leverett at

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Ridgewood Park area brightened by ‘This Little Light of Mine’ Campaign

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Columbia Richland Fire was proud to partner once again with the American Association of Retired Persons and area law enforcement agencies in support of the ‘This Little Light of Mine Campaign.’

On Thursday September 26 and Thursday October 3, Columbia Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins and department firefighters helped canvass streets around Ridgewood Park and the Barony Community off of Monticello Road. Crews handed out free packages of LED lightbulbs to all interested residents.

The goal of the program is to bring better lighting to reduce tripping hazards in area homes, especially for elderly citizens and other at-risk groups.

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Department Leaders Shine at Annual Conference for SC State Association of Fire Chiefs

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Over the course of three days, heads of the Columbia-Richland Fire Department were highlighted during the 75th Annual Leadership Conference of the South Carolina State Association of Fire Chiefs.

The 2019 conference brought leaders in the fire service from all corners of the Palmetto State to Myrtle Beach.

Columbia-Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins earned a higher office in the association as he was named its new 1st Vice President at a closing awards banquet on Saturday evening September 28.

The members of the state association of fire chiefs work to provide both volunteer and career fire service managers with information and educational services and representation to grow in their professions.

“I am truly honored beyond words to be named to this position by my peers working as leaders in the fire service,” Jenkins said, “Not only do we all share a common desire to serve our communities but also a willingness to improve our talents and better motivate the many firefighters serving under us.”

“I look forward to working with my colleagues at the association over the next year as we continue our collective mission of guiding current and future leaders working in the SC fire service,” Jenkins added.

Fire Chief Jenkins recent advancement in the association came after he served as 2nd Vice President of the organization beginning in 2018.

Members of the Columbia-Richland Fire Department would also have a role promoting education during the annual conference.

Battalion Chief David Laird and Battalion Chief Philip Yarchuk led a 2-day Battalion Chief Academy focused on strategies and tactics for firefighters working in command roles.


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Electric surge causes explosion, fires off Westwood Avenue

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Multiple property and grass fires broke out after a grounded power line caused a massive electrical explosion off of Westwood Avenue in Columbia on the afternoon of September 26, 2019.

The electrical issue caused a transformer on the road to blow. One home suffered extensive damage from fire after power backfed into it. A neighboring home was damaged by radiant heat while fire also damaged a backyard shed and several vehicles.

Columbia Richland Fire responded with more than 40 personnel just before 4:15 p.m. Crews worked on getting the property fires out while also battling multiple fires in the grass and woodlines.

No injuries were reported. The incident caused about $100,000 in damages.

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Series of Fires in Old Shandon Neighborhood Under Investigation

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Columbia Richland Fire is continuing to work with the Columbia Police Department to investigate a series of suspicious fires that broke out in the city’s Old Shandon Neighborhood on the morning of Thursday September 26, 2019.

Multiple crews responded to the 3200 block of Heyward Street at around 4 a.m. There firefighters found the exterior of one home on fire as well as two vehicles that were parked in the home’s driveway and carport.

Crews were able to get the fire under control in about 30 minutes and no injuries were reported. Responders also found several trash containers on fire in front of another home on the block.

Further down Heyward Street on the 3500 block another fire was reported outside of a home. When fire crews arrived there they found the cover for a boat trailer on fire and were quickly able to put the flames out.

A fourth fire was later reported in the bed of a truck on the 3200 block of Cannon Street. The owner of the truck was able to put the fire out them self by using a garden hose.

In total the fires caused about $82,000 in damages. Thankfully no injuries were reported from any of the fires.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is assisting the Columbia Police Department and Columbia Richland Fire with the investigation into the fires. At this point investigators cannot say with certainly that all four incidents are connected.

CPD did release photos from surveiliance video that show a vehicle of interest that investigators are looking for. Anybody with any information connected to the incidents should call CRIME STOPPERS at 1-888-CRIME SC.

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Citizens Encouraged to Take Steps to Prepare Ahead of Hurricane Dorian

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With a State of Emergency in effect for South Carolina ahead of Hurricane Dorian Columbia Richland Fire is asking all residents to stay informed and get ready for the potential impacts the storm could bring to the central Midlands.

Dorian could produce significant rainfall and strong winds through parts of Wednesday and Thursday of this week (September 4 & 5). Forecast projections could likely change.

Ahead of this weather event firefighters are asking you to remember the following:

  • Keep away from power lines that may fall due to high winds
  • Adjust speed while driving in heavy rain to avoid hydroplaning!
  • If rainfall causes area roadways to flood, DO NOT drive your vehicle through flood waters! Remember: Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
  • Secure any outdoor property that could be carried by high winds!
  • Prepare for possible power outages that could be brought on by the storm! Have an emergency kit ready that includes flashlights with plenty of needed batteries, water, a first aid kit, non-perishable foods, cash and other items.
  • If you decide to use a backup generator due to a loss of power KEEP IT OUTSIDE in a well ventilated, DRY area and away from doors, windows and vents. Also DO NOT refuel the generator if it is hot! Allow the device to cool first.
  • For further information and tips for storm preparation, download and read the 2019 South Carolina Hurricane Guide. Also residents should stay tuned to local media outlets for the latest developments concerning the storm.

Area residents should also be advised that increased traffic will be expected in the City of Columbia and Richland County over the next few days as coastal areas are evacuated ahead of the storm.

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Condo building badly damaged by 2-alarm fire

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Roughly 20 people were left displaced following two fires that broke out in the same building at Lexington Green Condominiums. One of the fires reached a 2-alarm status and destroyed several condos on the top floor of the building on the morning of Sunday, August 25, 2019.

All occupants were able to escape the building safely. The day before a kitchen fire left one unit of the building uninhabitable due to fire damages.

Columbia Richland Fire was assisted by the Irmo Fire District with putting out the 2-alarm fire. It originally was dispatched as a rekindled fire from the kitchen fire the day before. However the Richland County Fire Marshal’s is investigating to see if the two fires were in fact related.

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CFD among City of Columbia departments to launch partnership with FirstNet

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Contributed by Taylor Wright, City of Columbia Mayor’s Office

The City of Columbia has joined forces with the world’s largest telecommunications company, AT&T, to deploy the public safety communications platform FirstNet. The effort is the largest FirstNet deployment in South Carolina.

Mayor Benjamin and Columbia Fire Department and Police Department officials joined Terrence Ford, Director of Legislative Affairs for AT&T South Carolina, on Monday August 19, 2019 at a press conference to announce the new technology.

Columbia Richland Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins & Mayor Steven Benjamin at a press conference to announce the city’s partnership with FirstNet on August 19, 2019.

“We are excited to work with AT&T to provide this critical resource to our first responders in an effort to aid our public safety measures,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “It is critical that our first responders can communicate every day and especially during an emergency. FirstNet will make this communication more effective than ever before. We’re looking forward to working with our partners to maximize the benefits of this innovative technology which will help make our communities safer.”

FirstNet is a nationwide, public safety broadband platform dedicated to America’s first responders. Backed by Congress, it is designed to strengthen and modernize public safety communications, helping first responders access critical information during emergencies. FirstNet is being built by AT&T in a public-private partnership with the FirstNet Authority, an independent agency within the federal government.

“FirstNet is a communications system purpose-built to support the important work of first responders and represents a giant leap in communications capabilities for the public safety community,” said Terrence Ford, Director of Legislative Affairs for AT&T South Carolina. “We are excited to work with Mayor Benjamin and other city leaders to bring the benefits of FirstNet to the Columbia community and its first responders.”

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Firefighters canvas Columbia, Richland County for 2019 National Night Out

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On the night of August 6, 2019, Columbia Richland firefighters once again took part in celebrating ties between first responders and the communities that they serve.

Department crews attended several events for the 2019 National Night Out. From the St. Andrews area to Lower Richland County our firefighters were focused on sharing important information while also taking time to have fun with our community neighbors.

We want to thank the many neighborhoods that welcomed us to their events for what was an enjoyable evening.