Richbourg joins fellow firefighters at State House to support various fire protection bills
by Staff Reports | March 8, 2017 3:54 pm
Last Updated: March 8, 2017 at 10:27 pm
Clarendon County Fire Chief Frances Richbourg joined other firefighters throughout the state Wednesday in expressing concerns to representatives and senators in the General Assembly.
“Wednesday was our annual Legislative Day for the S.C. Firefighter’s Association, and so I was there in support of our many concerns that we have concerning any legislation or possible legislation that could come from our government representatives,” Richbourg said Wednesday evening.
Richbourg said one such concern is the danger inherent in the job that comes with firefighting. But it’s not just fire that provides the risk. She said firefighters can easily become victims of violent crime.
Association leaders on Wednesday, therefore, are asking legislators for a bill that would allow first responders to carry handguns when responding to 911 calls. State law currently allows only certified law enforcement officers to carry handguns, and the association wants firefighters and EMS personnel added under that umbrella.
“There have certainly been times where we’ve had firefighters run to a scene only to have individuals who present a danger to us,” she said. “I have certainly been in situations where I’ve been uncomfortable about a person’s intent at a scene.”
Firefighters, she said, have been attacked in incidents throughout the nation, and even in South Carolina. A Spartanburg man was convicted in 2015 of the assault of a firefighter responding to a domestic violence call.
“Other concerns they have are having those who assault firefighters charged with aggravated assault and battery, not just assault,” said Richbourg.
“We are also concerned about the inspection of smoke alarms in rental homes,” said Richbourg, who has long been an advocate locally and statewide for fire education and prevention. Richbourg frequently touts the use of smoke alarms, and the regular change of batteries, as the No. 1 factor in saving lives during a structure fire.
She and her colleagues, she noted, believe that landlords should be required by state law to properly fit homes with working fire alarms, and face penalties for violations.
“People don’t think about having a working smoke detector unless they’ve been through a fire before, or unless they have it brought to their attention through education efforts,” she said. “We have residents who don’t realize how many people have died simply because of the lack of a working smoke alarm.”
Richbourg emphasized the word “working.”
“It’s not enough to just have the detector,” she said. “It has to work. It won’t save a life if it doesn’t have working batteries and isn’t checked frequently, at least every three months.”
Introduced in January, all three bills are currently under review by the Senate Judiciary Committee.