West Columbia Fire Chief Chris Smith is new S.C. Fire Chiefs Association President

Smith with West Columbia staff, council members and mayor before being inducted as Fire Chiefs Association president, Thursday.

The City of West Columbia is proud to have Chris Smith as its fire chief.

Smith was inducted as the South Carolina Fire Chiefs Association 74th President at a ceremony held at Stone River in West Columbia.

In return for the city’s commitment, Smith is is vocal about who he represents.

“I’m proud to be the leader of the 25 men and women of the West Columbia Fire Department who have dedicated their life to protecting the property and the people of the city,” said Smith.

Smith took over the WCFD on Sept. 25 of last year. He replaced former Chief Wyatt Coleman who retired after 40 years. Smith has been in fire service for 26 years. He comes to the area from Westminster, in Oconee County. He was there for 14 years.

In his time he has seen changes in the way firefighters do their job.

“We train very hard,” said Smith. He said his crew works on 24-hour shifts, with 48 hours off. “We have all career members. There are no volunteers.”

President’s ceremony. Anna Huffman photo.

The pace is faster for Smith in West Columbia because he has a much bigger staff to manage than he did in his previous job.

And the job is all-encompassing. Smith noted that the fire department provides fire protection, along with medical services as first responders and rescue.

“Lot’s of times we’re there several minutes before EMS,” said Smith.

He said firefighters provide life-saving services on an urgent basis. He alluded to a situation involving a cardiac arrest in which firefighter immediately administered CPR and saved the patient’s life.

Smith said the the level of resources has evolved over the years.

“In 1983, the West Columbia Fire Department was fire protection only,” he said. “We’ve since added medical and rescue services, and river rescue.”

The volume for the department has increased exponentially, too.

“In 2017, we responded to 1,800 calls,” Smith said. He added that 62 percent of those calls were medical.

Often the responses are conducted in one of the department’s large ladder trucks. Those trucks are expensive to operate and to maintain.

Smith speaking at the Fie Chiefs conference with Mayor Bobby Horton.

To combat the inefficiency of using expensive equipment, the West Columbia City Council has budgeted for a smaller first responder rescue truck three additional firefighters, who are also trained as paramedics, and their equipment.

“A new smaller rescue truck, and the new personnel, will help save lives,” Smith said.

To be in such a place is where Smith wants to be.

Since he was a child Smith has been interested in the job of firefighter and paramedic. As soon as he got out of high school he began working his way up to the level of a chief.

I got involved,” said Smith. He began as an entry-level firefighter and worked his way up to chief.

He has not regrets “I have a fabulous job, working with some great individuals and getting to help the community.”

And the people of West Columbia re glad to have him.

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