EASLEY — The only exposure residents often have to their local fire department is when there is a fire in a business or residence or a controlled burn and even then, they don’t always understand what the job sometimes entails, especially when it’s cold.
When the Easley area was blasted with below freezing temperatures on Jan. 7, Easley Fire Department Chief Butch Womack and his crews saw some hurdles they had yet to experience in their line of work.
“I have to say, this was one of my most adventurous cold spells,” said Womack, whose 28 years of experience make it a statement of significance. “I saw things I’ve never seen before. At one point we were making calls to restoration companies to help with busted pipe issues we were so backed up.”
No house fire is run of the mill, especially when you speak to the victims, but on this particular day, two calls to fight fires for the Easley department presented obstacles they were prepared for but did not anticipate.
Responding to a house fire at 501 Blair St. in Easley in the predawn hours, firefighters discovered their water source, the hydrant itself, was frozen and would not supply water.
Soon another truck was on its way and the fire was snuffed without losing water or time in fighting the blaze. Around 6 p.m. the same evening, a call came in for a “fully involved” fire at a residence at 417 Church St. where water was again an issue.
Firefighters were able to fix the supply problem without losing valuable time at the scene.
“We go through a lot of cold snaps, lower than 20 degrees and with snow,” Womack said. “And the funny thing is we have never had this big a problem. The good thing is our folks know what they’re doing, we’ve got good leaders and at no point did we lose water, even if we had these two freezing problems.”
The Easley Fire Department also responded to flooded homes from pipes bursting when temperatures begin to rise. On Jan. 7, three homes in the Cobblestone subdivision were flooded when pipes in them burst.
“When the subdivision was built, the pipes were placed in the ceilings,” Womack explained. “When those pipes began to warm up and they busted, the water flooded the houses and left an unbelievable amount of damage. One home was almost completely destroyed.”
Units respond in these situations and help with getting water flow under control, help in assessing damage, and also provide assistance to residents who need to make arrangements for accommodations with organizations such as the American Red Cross.
“Two of the three families in Cobblestone were able to go to a hotel,” said Womack. “The third, a gentleman in his early 90s, didn’t want to leave his home and I feel good that we were able to help him be able to stay in his home, not a strange place.”
Womack sees his people as professionals, well-trained and prepared for just about any eventuality.
“Yes, there were some strange things to happen, but in the end our team pulled together,” he said. “No taxpayers were hampered, we never lost water despite what we were dealing with, and no matter what comes up, we always have a ‘Plan B.’”