A new mutual aid agreement with the Claxton Fire Department was one of two agreements involving the Statesboro Fire Department approved by Statesboro City Council this week.
The other allows a production company to use the Fire Department’s training facilities, which include a tower, for filming. Both agreements were presented to the mayor and council Tuesday by Statesboro Fire Chief Tim Grams.
Claxton Fire Chief Jason Stone, recently promoted to that position, requested the mutual aid agreement with a letter dated June 27. Stone and Claxton Mayor Terry Branch had already signed the agreement. It promises that each department will respond to emergencies in the other’s service area, but only when specifically asked to do so, and only if the department doesn’t need the equipment and firefighters for emergencies in its home area.
“It’s a pretty standard mutual aid agreement,” Grams told City Council. “It doesn’t bind us to anything. It’s reciprocal in nature, so if we have, you know, a massive amount of emergencies going on or our resources are tied up, we’re not obligated to send anything upon their request, and vice versa.”
Council approved the agreement 5-0.
“I like the idea that if we’re working with Claxton, Claxton’s also on standby to support us if we need it. I think the Police Department has something similar with the city of Savannah,” said Statesboro Councilman Sam Lee Jones.
Statesboro Fire Department officials found no agreement with Claxton in their records, Grams said when asked after the meeting.
”We did not have anything on file, it was something they requested, but certainly I think it’s mutually beneficial, so I was glad to present it to council,” he said.
A rare occurrence
“We have, in my time here, responded to a couple of calls over in Evans County,” Grams said. “One I personally went to back in the late 90s, the (Claxton) Poultry plant fire. “
He assumes that any emergency the SFD would be asked to assist with in Claxton “would have to be something pretty significant,” he said.
Nearly 20 miles separate Statesboro and Claxton, and two other, mostly volunteer, fire departments have primary responsibility for much of that area, the Bulloch County Fire Department and Evans County Fire & Rescue. The Bulloch County government now has plans to upgrade its county Fire Department, adding more full-time firefighters in the near future.
Interviewed Friday, Stone confirmed that he is seeking to restore or create mutual aid agreements with a number of surrounding departments.
“It’s just a tool in our toolbox in case something were to happen where we need more resources,” he said.
After the Claxton Fire Department’s former chief, Harold Rogers, retired in April, Stone served as interim chief and then was officially promoted to chief effective July 1. Previously deputy chief, he has served exactly 20 years with the department as of this week. He is its only full-time firefighter, supervising 20 volunteers.
Stone said he hopes to send a proposed agreement to the Bulloch County Fire Department next week, after getting his mayor’s signature.
The Claxton Fire Department has also offered mutual aid agreements to the Metter, Glennville, Tattnall County, Bryan County and Pembroke departments, and several have been signed and returned, he said. Stone said he sent Evans County Fire & Rescue an agreement but had not received it back yet.
Asked about situations in which Statesboro firefighters might be called to Claxton, he recalled the Claxton Poultry fire 20 years ago, mentioned the ladder truck and also noted that the SFD has more training to deal with hazardous materials.
In fact, the SFD now has two trucks with a 100-foot reach in active service, Tower 1 and Ladder 2, Grams said. Staffed 24 hours, the department employs about 50 full-time firefighters.
A BattlBox show?
The second agreement Grams presented Tuesday took the form of a City Council resolution allowing a film or video production company, Fourth State Productions, to use the SFD training facilities between Wednesday, Aug. 8, and Nov. 30.
The filmmakers will be at the site probably only a few days, but they wanted that longer timeline in case they need to come back, Grams said. The resolution gives the fire chief or someone he designates authority to approve specific dates for use of the site.
“My understanding is this is basically a survival-type show where they’re trying out different gadgets and gizmos and things of that nature that are related to survival,” Grams told the council. “It’s part of a local company, BattlBox, if you’re familiar with that. That’s basically how it’s tied into Statesboro.”
Councilman John Riggs then referred to BattlBox as a local company that has “exponentially grown,” and Councilman Phill Boyum called it “a multimillion-dollar company right here in Statesboro.”
Founded by Daniel Dabbs of Portal and Patrick Kelley of Milledgeville, BattlBox.com sells gift subscriptions for monthly boxes containing items for hiking, fishing, camping and survival. Dabbs was reached briefly by phone Friday but had not called back by press time.
The resolution was accompanied by a signed hold harmless agreement by which Fourth State Productions takes responsibility for any damages and promises that the city and its employees will not be held liable for any mishaps.
It also includes a certificate of liability insurance indicating that New York-based ITV US Holdings and its subsidiaries, including Fourth State Productions, are covered by a $10 million umbrella policy, with up to $1 million per occurrence for personal injury or rented premises damage.
“We worked very closely with our city attorney, Cain Smith, and wanted to make sure we were covering all our bases,” Grams said after the meeting. “It’s the first time we’ve ever tried something like this, but we feel pretty comfortable with it and feel like it’s a good project that will hopefully raise Statesboro’s recognition.”
The resolution did not cite the rates, but he said the production company will pay rental fees and for the time of any standby personnel that would be needed. For any materials, the charge would be generally cost plus 15 percent, he said.
“So, yes, we are certainly trying to negate any cost that would be passed onto our taxpayers,” Grams said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.