Skip to main content

Effingham Magazine

Port Wentworth Fire Department

Port Wentworth Fire Department

Meeting the Demands of a Thriving Community

In 2021, the Port Wentworth Fire Department answered 1976 calls from across the community, a 17 percent increase over the previous year. They are a small but mighty team—30 full-time firefighters, six part-time firefighters, a training lieutenant, a captain and an administrative assistant—that works across two stations in the city limits.

They are led by Chief of Fire Operations Lance Moore, who has been working with the fire department since 2009 and has been the chief since 2016. He has witnessed firsthand the city’s rapid growth and, with it, the growth of the department.

“When I started, we had one person on each truck and ran two trucks per shift. Now we’re up to 10 people per shift,”  Moore said. “We’re growing and making things happen.”

Moore came to the Port Wentworth Fire Department after working with a department in Massachusetts. Firefighting was a career change for him, spurred by an aspiration to help others.

“Helping the department grow and go in the right direction is what gets me up every day,” Moore said.

He followed his family to Port Wentworth for a change of weather and scenery. He started at Port Wentworth Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter in 2009 and was hired full-time a few months later.

“I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it and [I’m pleased] to see it become the department that I envisioned years ago,” Moore said.

Keeping Up with Port Wentworth’s Growth

In Chief Moore’s tenure, he led the department to receive an improved Insurance Services Office (ISO) score. This shows how prepared a fire department is in the event of a fire emergency and encompasses equipment, training, water supply, call response times and more. An ISO score is given by the Insurance Services Office, and the lower the number the better. In 2020, the department received a score of 3, an improvement from the 5 that they had in previous years. Homeowners insurance companies use this score when they are determining rates, and a better score can translate to lower insurance premiums for everyone in the area.

Port Wentworth is home to a wide variety of residential and commercial development. With the especially busy roads of Highway 21 and Interstate 95 falling in their jurisdiction, the Port Wentworth Fire Department has a lot of ground to cover. 

Among the notable calls that they have responded to in the past include the C-130 crash in 2018. Because of the scale of that event, they collaborated with departments from surrounding areas as well.

“With the explosive growth of the city, trying to keep this department up with demand and growing at an equal pace with the city has been a challenge,” Moore said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun.”

Future goals include improving equipment and training programs and hiring more staff to handle the city’s growing population. They also hope to build a new station north of Interstate 95 to accommodate the growth in that area.

“[A new station] will greatly enhance our ability to serve the public,” Moore said. “We need a facility up there to continue to do our job efficiently.”

At any given time, there are 10 firefighters on a shift between the two stations, working 24 hours on, 48 hours off.

The duties of the fire department extend far beyond putting out fires. All the department’s vehicles and equipment are inspected daily to ensure that they are in working order. They also train businesses and civilians on proper fire extinguisher use, service more than 500 fire hydrants throughout the city limits and visit commercial buildings each year to conduct pre-plan inspections. These visits give firefighters an idea of how they would go about responding to a call in that structure and also allows them to point out and correct any fire code violations.

Community Partnerships

The Port Wentworth Fire Department is no stranger to getting out into the community. They’ve rescued trapped kittens, driven Santa Claus through area neighborhoods, given awards to young heroes and participated in Stand Up For America Day. Every week, you can find them at the Port Wentworth Senior Center doing blood pressure checks.

Sometimes, community organizations come to them. The department received a donation from Girl Scout Troop 30385 to provide oxygen masks for pets who are rescued from fires, part of the troop’s Bronze Award service project.

The Port Wentworth Fire Department also has a strong relationship with Southeastern Guide Dogs, a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs for the visually impaired and for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Trainers bring dogs to the department to acclimate to the sights, smells and sounds of fire gear so that they are prepared to assist their handler in the event of an emergency.

Lieutenant Manny Morilla with Port Wentworth coordinates with Southeastern Guide Dogs whenever they come to visit.

“It’s gratifying to be a part of their training,” Morilla said.

Be a Part of the Department

A new class of recruits has just wrapped up their training, which consists of a challenging physical training regimen that includes running, weight lifting and agility exercises to ensure that they’re ready for what’s ahead.

While physical fitness is a large part of the job, the recruits also spend eight weeks training in a classroom setting, working with live burns, and perfecting other firefighting skills to pass their National Professional Qualifications Firefighter I test.

People come to Port Wentworth Fire Department from all walks of life and different levels of experience. What’s essential to their success at the department? A willingness to learn.

“Absorb all the knowledge you can. We have people that come on board with 10 years experience and a ton of certifications down to people who are just seeing the inside of a fire truck,” Moore said. “A positive attitude goes a long way.”

Like the city, the Port Wentworth Fire Department is growing and has openings for those interested in a fast-paced career that allows them to make a difference. Interested candidates can apply at