Fairfield County Rescue Squad celebrates 50 years

Members of the original Fairfield County Rescue Squad, kneeling, from left: Luther Yates, Roland Jordan, Ed Bass, Thomas Wilkes – Chief, Joe Sylvia, Henry Matuse, Robert Enloe, Lloyd Jordan. Standing, from left: Wilber Collins, Larry Crocker, Glisson, Jack R. Wilkes, Henry Conyers, Jr., Clyde Collins, Linsday Smith, H.E. Douglas, Dorsey Mosley, David Bozard, William Castles, Louis Gonzalez, Billy Cogdill, L.B. Douglas, L.B. Anderson, H.P. Dove

WINNSBORO – When an ice storm paralyzed Fairfield County in the winter of 1968, knocking out the power at a nursing home on Bellfield Road, a Citizens Band (CB) radio club sent out word that volunteers were urgently needed to help the residents of the home.

The community responded.

After helping the nursing home residents through the storm, some of those who responded ex­pressed a need for a rescue squad in Fairfield County, like the ones in Chester and Great Falls, to help in emergency situations. It was with the help of those two groups that the Fairfield County Rescue Squad was organized.

On Aug. 18, the squad will celebrate 50 years of service to Fairfield County with an anni­versary party at Drawdy Park. From 10 am until 2 pm they will meet, greet and reminisce with family and friends over free hot dogs, giveaways, entertainment and demonstrations of lifesaving equipment and techniques. The celebration is free and open to the public

Joe Silvia of Winnsboro and one of the inaugural members of the squad, will be there. He is the only one of the first members still active in the squad which has not only survived over the years, but has thrived. Thirty-five members strong now, it is funded by the county – a long way from its hum­ble beginnings.

Silva recalled the early days of the squad when L. B. Anderson was the squad’s captain.

“We had an old World War II field ambulance and a donated 1960’s white Chevrolet station wagon as our rescue vehicles,” Silvia said, laughing fondly as he reminisced the first years of the squad.

Squad members didn’t just wit­ness the fires, floods and disasters over the years; they experienced them, first hand.

Winnsboro resident Eddie Wat­ford, who joined the squad later and now serves as treasurer, re­called the tornado of 1984 that came through Winnsboro killing 5 people, injuring 56 and leveling Richard Winn Academy. Watford said the rescue squad was there to assist.

I remember sitting at a meeting with a rep from the weather bureau. He said the tornado was an F4 and the worst one east of the Mississippi River,” Watford said.

“In those days, we were going out on 35 or 40 calls a year. Today, we’ve al­ready made over a hundred calls just through July of this year,” Silvia said.

Members range in age from kids in their late teens to seniors in their 70’s, Silvia said.

By the book, the Rescue Squad’s main function is to find missing persons, Wat­ford noted.

But the members also have other duties and spe­cial skills.

“We pry and cut folks out of wrecked vehicles with the Jaws of Life, re­trieve lost hunters from the woods and search rivers for sus­pected drowning victims. And while many of the members are current or retired firefighters,” Watford said, “the squad does not fight fires.”

Silvia said the squad has a rescue re­hab bus equipped to help firefighters when they are out fighting fires.

“We take the bus to the site of the fire and use it to help the firefighters stay hy­drated,” Silvia said. “We take their vital signs and help them stay safe while they fight the fires.”

Much of their specialized equipment, such as the Jaws of Life, will be on dis­play at Drawdy Park on Aug. 18.

“We’ll demonstrate how to pry open doors and the best way for them to get themselves out of a wrecked vehicle,” Watford said. “Members from the dive team will be there with their equipment.”

Watford said the squad stays up-to­date on training and search methods.

“We are one of only 3 or 4 rescue units in the state to have sonar on our boat,” Watford said. “Sonar allows us to dif­ferentiate objects in our search. Other­wise, we would end up dredging up tires and all sorts of debris. Dredging can also mutilate the crime scene, making it harder to understand what happened and why.”

The all-terrain vehicle they use in re­trieving lost persons from wooded areas will also be on display.

The squad receives $36,000 in fund­ing from the County each year, and they have their own facility behind the Fair­field County library where they meet twice monthly.

Drawdy Park is located at 702 8th Street in Winnsboro. The party will last from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more infor­mation, call (803)635-3699.

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