Mayor swears in Tega Cay’s first fulltime fire chief

Special to the Fort Mill TimesMay 6, 2013 

— After 20 years of volunteering with the Tega Cay Fire Department, Chief Scott Szymanski said Monday he felt honored to become the city’s first full-time, paid fire chief.

“It’s the longest I’ve done anything in my life,” he said. “The city supports me 100 percent.”

The fire department has been mostly run by volunteers since it started in 1973. The city incorporated full-time firefighters into its budget four years ago and has been building toward providing 24-7 service, Tega Cay Mayor George Sheppard said after swearing Szymanski in Monday morning.

“We have recognized the need to have more coverage and protection for several years,” Sheppard said. “It’s what we should do and what we are doing.”

Sheppard said Szymanski has been re-elected as volunteer fire chief every two years since he started with the department.

“It’s logical to make him the full-time fire chief,” he said. “He has the support of the department and the citizens.”

As Tega Cay continues to grow, the department is moving toward a paid department supported by volunteers rather than a volunteer department supported by the city, Szymanski said.

It’s a transition the Town of Fort Mill made several years ago following years of explosive population growth and doubling it’s footprint through annexation.

“It’s a great step for the city,” Szymanski said. “It shows we’re progressing.”

The city hopes to budget for two more full-time firefighters this year, Sheppard said. More full-time firefighters will mean a faster response time and better protection. They are also hoping to build another station in the near future. The readiness of a city’s fire department can mean a lower ISO rating, which translates into lower insurance premiums for homeowners.

“We have the best ISO rating in York County and we want to maintain that,” Sheppard said. “I feel good that the citizens are protected 24-7.”

Sheppard said the city is honored to have Szymanski as the full-time fire chief.

“I hope we never need him or have to move any of these trucks out of here,” he said.

Even with full-time positions being added, Szymanski said help will always be welcomed at the fire department.

“There is always going to be a need for volunteers,” he said. “I’m happy to keep the fire department progressing in the right direction.”

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