BROOKLET — City, county and state officials, along with a number of emergency responders, gathered inside the bay doors of the new Bulloch County EMS/Fire Station No. 7 while rain fell outside Tuesday morning.
They christened the station two weeks after it started operating because the scheduling of a morning Bulloch County Board of Commissioners meeting for the third Tuesday of the month afforded the best opportunity for officials to participate. The station is at 16841 U.S. Highway 80 East.
“This has been a dream of many of us for upwards of two decades now, and we’re excited that it’s finally come to fruition,” Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said.
He added that thanks to the support of Bulloch County and Brooklet elected officials, “Bulloch County Public Safety’s been able to take a big step in the delivery of emergency medical services to many citizens living in the southern part of the county.”
All seven county commissioners, County Manager Tom Couch, County Fire Chief Christopher Ivey, Brooklet Mayor William Hendrix and City Council members, Brooklet Police Chief Mike Buchan and state Rep. Jan Tankersley, R-Brooklet, were among those attending.
“In an emergency, time is crucial in saving lives,” Wynn said. “This station, and EMS’s presence here, will no doubt save lives. Bulloch County EMS has always strived to deliver the highest level of service available; however, Bulloch County is large and, sometimes, response times are lengthy.”
In an interview after the ribbon-cutting, Wynn said the expansion of the existing fire station to accommodate a two-person EMS shift cost nothing. That’s because longtime Brooklet resident Juanita Denmark-Newton donated the land — first for the fire station when it was built in the late 1990s, and then more land to allow for the EMS to have a southern Bulloch County base.
The work itself was done by two inmates who had the required skills. And one of the three EMS crews, along with Bulloch County Deputy Fire Chief Ben Tapley, were transferred to Brooklet from Statesboro. The only additional cost the county will assume is increased utility expenses needed for the larger building, as well as the fact that it will now be occupied full-time. Previously, the building was only open when volunteer firefighters needed it.
The station currently has two firefighting trucks and two ambulances. Wynn said plans call for the station to add another bay, which will host a tanker.
Denmark-Newton attended the ceremony along with her husband, Dent Newton, son, Gary Newton, and other family members. She couldn’t stop smiling during or after the dedication of the station.
“We needed a real fire department and EMS. We need it here, in this end of the county,” she said, when asked after the ceremony why she donated some of her land for the fire and EMS station. “We saw the need of it, and Ted came to me and talked to me — I’ve known Ted all of his life — and I said, ‘Sure, we’ve got the perfect place.’”
Wynn illustrated how much faster the Brooklet-based EMS crew can respond to a call in the southern part of the county.
“I know how long it takes to drive from Statesboro to Stilson. It takes about 25 minutes with lights and siren,” said Wynn, who used to be a paramedic. “Right now, I know of several calls that they have run from here to Stilson, and it takes eight minutes. So you’re knocking off over half of your travel time.”
As if to emphasize his point, just a few minutes later, Bulloch Central 911 dispatched a call for an overturned vehicle with possible entrapment on Nevils Daisy Road. Tapley and the two EMS personnel sped out in a fire truck and ambulance, with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
It turned out not to be serious, as the overturned vehicle was empty when emergency responders arrived.
Staff Writer Holli Deal Bragg contributed to this report.
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.