In a long-awaited vote, Bulloch County Commissioners approved funding for an expansion to the Portal Fire Department that will bring increased fire services as well as ambulance and EMS services to the area.
Expanding services to the remote areas of Bulloch County has been under discussion for quite some time.
“I know we were talking about it in the ‘80’s,” said Bulloch County Fire Chief Ben Tapley. “I am glad to see it coming.”
In addition to the expansions at Portal, the Register Fire Department is growing as well, he said. “We are adding six more firefighters” to expand fire services to cover the area “24/7, 365 days a year.”
Two of the new firefighters are already certified, and the others are in training, he said.
This raises the number of “career firefighters” (not volunteer) to six in the county, he said. There are two full time firefighters at Brooklet Station 7, two at Portal Station 2 and two at Station 3 in Register.
Construction on a day room, six new bedrooms and two new bathrooms at the Portal Station will begin in January. Commissioners voted during the Dec. 6 Bulloch County Commission meeting to approve $136,560 for the project. The bid was awarded to Hawk Construction.
The project should be completed by March or April. The addition of an ambulance and EMTs is expected to take place in the summer, Tapley said. The expansion will reduce response time to fires and other emergencies, Tapley said.
“We are trying to get out closer to the people.”
The addition of the EMS team and an ambulance will “give advanced medical care” beyond what volunteer first responders can provide “instead of waiting 20 minutes for (EMS) to get from (Statesboro).”
Bulloch County Commissioner Ray Mosley, who along with Commissioner Anthony Simmons serves the Portal/Northern Bulloch County area, said he is excited to see the expansion coming into reality.
“This is a fantastic thing for Portal,” he said. “It has been a long time coming.”
The distance from Statesboro to Portal and other remote areas means longer response times, and having a shorter response time could save lives, he said.
“Coming from Statesboro to Portal takes longer than we like.”
The current firefighters, voluntary as well as full time, are pleased with the news, he said. “
This makes us happy as well. All citizens of Bulloch County will benefit greatly from this. I am extremely happy to see this.”
Holli Deal Saxon is a Herald writer. She may be reached at (912) 243-7815.