Brad Welch had just settled in for a night’s rest at the EMS station in Yemassee when a panicked voice came in on the radio.
“I could hear a sense of fear,” Welch recalled.
Welch, a paramedic, was on call with Hampton County EMS and bolted out the station’s front door. He saw smoke billowing out of the Yemassee Fire Station that was just across the small parking lot.
Welch ran to the station, opened the side door and saw fire spreading across the back wall.
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Also trained as a firefighter, Welch, 28, started one of the fire engines and extinguished the blaze, which took about 10 minutes.
“I was only doing my job,” Welch insists.
Two former volunteer firefighters — Christopher Williams, 22, and Dominique Thompson, 21 — have been accused of setting the fire at about 11:30 p.m. Nov. 18, trapping another volunteer firefighter in the station’s office, Fire Chief Paul Holmes said.
The trapped firefighter — a 17-year-old who has not been identified because of his age — escaped without harm and helped Welch put out the fire, Welch said.
“The Town Hall and fire station were saved,” Fire Chief Paul Holmes said. “If (Welch) had not responded as fast as he did, the whole Town Hall would probably have been in flames, and we’d have lost fire trucks and ambulances (parked at the station).”
The fire damaged one of the station’s doors and walls, Holmes said. It also caused minor damage to a fire truck, but it is still operable.
Though a full-time paramedic, Welch is no stranger to fighting fires. He is a certified firefighter EMT and worked for the Bamberg Fire Department from 2000 to 2004.
When responding to fires as a firefighter, Welch is dressed in protective clothing — fully covered with gloves, boots and a helmet. The EMS uniform he was wearing is much less protective, and not made to fight fires.
But that didn’t slow Welch.
“It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing before I did it,” Welch said. “I was trained to do that, so it was just kind of nature.”
Welch said he didn’t see anyone outside when he emerged from the EMS station, including the suspects.
Williams and Thompson were identified on the fire station’s surveillance camera and charged hours later with allegedly setting the fire, Holmes said.
During an interrogation, one of the two men said they both poured gasoline around the fire station door at about 11 p.m. and lit it because they were “feuding” with the volunteer firefighter who was inside, Yemassee police Capt. Greg Alexander said.
Williams and Thompson were charged with attempted murder and second-degree arson. They are being held at the Hampton County Detention Center, with bonds set at $300,000 each, according to a jail official.