Well, this is just what southwestern Berkeley County needs — another 5,700 homes for volunteer firefighters to protect.
D.R. Horton, the largest home developer in the nation, just bought 600 acres off U.S. Highway 176 where it could conceivably build thousands of new houses. That’s right next to Cane Bay, where there are already 4,000 homes and plans to build up to another 6,000.
And that’s not too far from Nexton and the land bought in January by PulteGroup Inc. — which is expected to stick hundreds more houses there.
Add all those developments together and you get ... a mess.
Right now, Berkeley County is protected by 25 separate volunteer fire departments. A new station is under construction in Cane Bay but residents are having to hold bake sales to furnish it so the department can save its money for staff.
Berkeley’s system of providing some funding to a bunch of little fire houses was fine when it was a sleepy, rural county. But now it’s becoming a hub of commerce and mega-communities bigger than most cities in South Carolina.
So, of course, it needs some basic services. Whitesville Volunteer Fire Department now covers the Cane Bay area, and the county recently doubled its budget — which will enable them to hire more paid staff to supplement the volunteers — but they're responsible for 47 square miles of land that is increasingly crowded with commercial and industrial property, as well as all those houses.
Berkeley County Council recently approved increases in water and sewer fees to fund the infrastructure needed to accommodate all this rampant growth. But officials have ignored residents clamoring for consolidated, countywide fire service. Which would lower their insurance rates and perhaps even save their lives.
The county is smart to plan for growth, but it also needs to plan for emergencies.
You know, like the one it already has.