Big Bertha


The 1800s

  • The first recorded mention of the Summerville Fire Department occurred in the Town Council minutes of December 28, 1893, when a discussion was brought up regarding the purchase of a fire alarm bell and the forming of a fire brigade.
  • On March 7, 1894, the first piece of fire apparatus was purchased from the hook and ladder company for $165. On April 30, 1894, the first formal town fire brigade was formed consisting of 25 members.
  • In August of 1894, the first fire station was leased on the clubhouse lot for $190. In October of the same year, the Pioneer Fire Company was organized. The engine house was then moved to the first floor of the town hall which had been built in 1892.
  • In February of 1895 Town Council created the first Fire Chief’s position. On March 19, 1895, R.H. Sweeney was named the first Fire Chief for the Town of Summerville.
  • In September of 1897, the engine house was relocated. A new building was constructed on Second South Street between Central Avenue and Main Street. The first fire committee was formed in the same year and awarded the fire department an annual budget of $100.

The early 1900s

  • In August of 1902, a conflagration destroyed a large portion of the business district which was built of wooden buildings and shanties.
  • Little more is mentioned until September 3, 1913, when 5 locations were chosen to erect small storage sheds that would contain 50-gallon soda extinguishers on wheels. The extinguishers carried 50 feet of hose and were rolled to the fire when needed.
  • The first motorized fire apparatus, a chemical tank truck, was purchased by the town in June of 1917.

The 1920s

  • In August of 1920, the first volunteer fire department was founded. Each of the two companies of men was to have a captain who was elected from the company. The companies jointly elected a chief from the membership and were vested with police powers by the Town Council. Sam McDougal was elected Fire Chief in that year.
  • In 1921 a new brick fire engine house was built on the site of the old station for a total cost of $490.
  • In October of 1924, the town purchased a new fire apparatus consisting of three chemical tanks mounted on a Chevrolet chassis. The engine also carried extinguishers, axes, and ground ladders.
  • In 1928 the Summerville census stated that the town had a population of 2,394.

The 1930s

  • In March of 1930, the first fire hydrants were installed at a cost of $10,218. On November 30, 1930, the town purchased its first modern pumper, a 1929 American La France affectionately known as “Big Bertha” for $5,300. This original piece of equipment is still owned and operated today by the Summerville Fire Department.
  • In October of 1931, the Summerville Fire Department joined the SC Fireman’s Association. The fire station was relocated to the east side of Main Street facing the town square.
  • In 1934 D.D. Rhame became chief of the fire department.
  • From 1936 through 1937 Harold Weber was the Fire Chief. In 1936 there were 4 paid personnel within the department ranks. Firefighter pay was then $11.54 per week.
  • W. Westmoreland was acting Fire Chief for the first quarter of 1937. Raymond Alford was appointed chief later that same year.
  • In 1939 the annual fire department budget was $1,922. By early 1940 the fire station was relocated behind the 3-story town hall located on south Main Street.

The 1940s

  • In January of 1941, the first “smoke mask” was purchased for the department.
  • In 1943 firefighter's salary was $22 per week.
  • On November 16, 1945, John H. Weber was named Fire Chief with C.A. Poppleton as his assistant.
  • In August of 1947, a new 300 Gallon Per Minute (GPM) Howe pumper on a Ford chassis was purchased.

The 1950s

  • Gerald Murray was named Assistant Fire Chief in 1950.
  • In 1952 the magazine “South Carolina Fireman” stated that the town had a 25-man strong department with 2 fire apparatus.
  • The first communications equipment was placed in Bertha in 1956. The engineer's salary at this time was $65. Per week.
  • On November 11, 1958, engineer Robert Bunch was killed en route to a false alarm call. His apparatus was broadsided at the intersection now known as Cedar Street and West Second North Street. Mr. Bunch was killed when the open cab fire apparatus overturned and landed on him.
  • *on 3/31/74 a fountain and garden area was erected in Mr. Bunch’s memory. It is located behind the current town hall.
  • Engine 4, a 1959 Ford American La France 750 GPM pumper was purchased in 1959.

The 1960s

  • Engine 5, a 1965 Ford American La France 750 pumper was purchased in 1965 at a cost of $9,560.
  • The first Scott breathing apparatus was purchased in 1965 for $924.78 for 3 SCBA.
  • In 1966 the fire department was relocated to 225 West Luke Avenue.

The 1970s

  • On July 1, 1970, Chief John Weber stepped down as Fire Chief. Wf. Bill Hannah was named acting chief until the promotion of Carl Long on October 14, 1970. Mr. Long resigned due to personal reasons and in 1971 John Weber again became Fire Chief.
  • With the election of a new mayor, Berlin G. Myers in 1972, Richard G. Waring III was named the town’s first paid Fire Chief.
  • Chief Waring became one of South Carolina’s first certified fire instructors in 1974. In the same year, the department’s first deluge gun was purchased. The fire department's annual budget in 1974 was $71,149.
  • In 1973 a 2000-gallon Ford tanker was purchased (tanker 10).
  • In 1972 a 1000 GPM American La France Pioneer pumper was purchased (engine 6).
  • In 1976 a CF Mack 1250 GPM pumper was purchased (engine 8).

The 1980s

  • In January 1981 Station 2 (Luden Drive) was built and manned with 2 personnel per shift.
  • In 1982 a CF Mack 1000 GPM pumper was purchased (engine 12) along with the department’s first aerial apparatus, a 1982 MC Mack chassis / Smeal aerial platform (truck-1).
  • The dedication for Summerville’s headquarters fire station (Weber Station) at 300 West Second North Street was on June 16, 1984. The building was built at a cost of $500,000.
  • In December of 1984, the rank of Duty Chief was created in order to oversee operations of each of the 2 shifts. The department suppression personnel worked a 24 on / 24 off shift rotation during this time.
  • Station 3 (Trolley Road) was dedicated in May of 1986.

The 1990s

  • In 1990 the department had 27 paid personnel.
  • In the early 1990s, the department purchased 3 Pierce 1500 GPM pumpers, Engine 17, 19, and 20, for a total price of $571,000. A refurbished step-van was also placed in service as a hazardous materials response vehicle.
  • In May of 1992, the headquarters fire station was dedicated in the name of retired fire Chief John Weber. Land adjacent to the town maintenance facility was purchased in order to construct a public safety training facility.
  • In 1993 the department created the first Hazardous Material Special Operations Team.
  • On January 1, 1994, Fire Chief R.G. Waring was appointed public safety director for the Town of Summerville. He remained the Fire Chief after this appointment.
  • In 1994 the department purchased an aerial apparatus. A 1994 E-One Protection TC
  • In 1995 the department had 38 paid personnel.
  • In 1997 Engine 14 and 15, both 500-gallon E-One Cyclone II's were purchased.
  • On October 1, 1997, Chief A.J. Lord was promoted to Fire Chief.
  • In 1998 the department had 43 paid personnel.
  • In September of 1999, Chief A.J. Lord retired as Fire Chief.
  • In November of 1999, Marc Melfi was promoted to the rank of Fire Chief.

The 2000s

  • On September 13, 2000, Chief Melfi stepped down as Fire Chief. Robert L. Brown was named interim Fire Chief until a formal search could be conducted for a permanent Fire Chief.
  • In 2000 the department had 46 paid personnel.
  • In the early 2000s, the department restored the Hazardous Material Special Operations Team.
  • Formal interviews for the Fire Chief’s position were performed on February 21 and 22, 2001. On Monday, February 26, 2001, Robert L. Brown was appointed Fire Chief.
  • On April 20, 2001, Station Number 3 at 1701 Old Trolley Road was renamed the Richard G. Waring III Station in appreciation for the dedicated service he provided to the Summerville community, the town government, and the Summerville Fire-Rescue.
  • On August 27, 2002, the Explorer program (Jr firefighters) began.
  • In 2002 the department purchased a Sutphen TS-100. An aerial apparatus.
  • In November 2005, Robert L. Brown retired as Fire Chief. Marc S Melfi was made interim chief.
  • In 2005 the department had 57 paid personnel.
  • In May 2006, Marc S Melfi was promoted to Fire Chief.
  • In 2006 the department purchased an additional aerial apparatus, an E-One Cyclone II.
  • In 2008 Station 4 (164 Sheep Island Road) was completed and on March 3 had its Grand Opening. Engine 4, a 2006 E-One Typhoon was purchased to respond to incidents out of Station 4.
  • In 2009 Station 1 was remodeled.

2010 to 2015

  • Chief Marc S Melfi retired in October of 2011.
  • In October 2011, Richard Waring IV was selected to be Fire Chief by Summerville Town Council.
  • In 2012 the department started a smoke detector campaign. Personnel would go door to door checking and installing smoke detectors.
  • In 2012 Engine 3, a 1000-gallon E-One Typhoon, was purchased and put in service responding to Station 3's district.
  • Early 2014 Station 5 (101 W Butternut Road) was completed with its Grand Opening on May 06, 2014. Engine 5, a 2009 E-One Typhoon was purchased to respond to incidents in Station 5's district.
  • In 2014 the Hazardous Material Special Operations team was revamped to include many other types of Special Operations incidents.
  • In 2014 an Automatic Aid Agreement was made with the Town of North Charleston.
  • In 2015 Engine 1, a 750-gallon Pierce Sabre, was purchased and put into service in Station 1's district.
  • In 2015 the Fire Department's burn building was replaced with a Cement Block Burn/Training building. The training classroom was also replaced and the maintenance coordinator facilities were added to the training facility.
  • In 2015 Town Council approved Station 2 (Luden Drive) to be rebuilt. In Late 2015 Station 2 was demolished.

2016 to 2020

  • In March 2016 the position of Assistant Chief of Operations was created. Jake Jenkins was hired to fill this position and oversee department operations.
  • In June 2016 the department partnered with American Red Cross and had the first Smoke Detector Blitz in the Robyn Wynn Subdivision.
  • On September 20, 2016, Station 2 had its grand reopening.
  • In October 2016 the department created and hosted the first Citizen's Fire Academy.
  • In November 2016 in order to improve response identification within Dorchester County, The fire trucks were renumbered. Engines 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 became Engines 301, 302, 303, 304, and 305. Engine 15 became Engine 308 and Engine 19 became Engine 309. Truck 1 and 2 became Tower 301 and 302. Truck 3 became Ladder 303 and Rescue 1 became Rescue 301.
  • In 2017 the department had 104 paid personnel.
  • In 2017 an Automatic Aid Agreement was made with Dorchester County.
  • In January 2017 the first Lowcountry Recruit School was created. Recruit class 17-01.
  • In 2017 the department created and implemented the first Rope Rescue Special Operations Team.
  • In 2018 Station 3 was completed
  • In 2019 took delivery and began training drivers on the tiller
  • Ordered two new engines to replace E-304 and 305
  • Began EMT certification training
  • Added Community outreach position and increased social media presence
  • Added outreach programs like kickball and "Blazing a Trial" in reading with local schools
  • In 2020 took delivery of Engines 304 and 305
  • Began the design of station 6
  • Ordered Ladder 301 and Engine 303
  • Started responses to medical calls with a squad company
  • EMT certification continued
  • Responded to the Pandemic

2021 to Present

  • Restructured Command Staff and created a Special Ops Chief
  • The water rescue team became certified in swift water rescue
  • Created Captain position for Emergency Medical 
  • The first female in the department's history was promoted to Captain
  • Station 6 bid to build was awarded, 3 Captain positions were created and Engine 306 was ordered
  • In 2022 completed Recruit School / Fast Track with 19 graduates
  • A mentoring program was established for the recruit school
  • The department acquired its first high-water rescue vehicle
  • Completed DHEC License process for the EMT program
  • Station 1 was remodeled and the construction of Station 6 began