North Myrtle Beach, SC - HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Charred trees lining the backyards of hundreds of homes in the Barefoot Resort continue to serve as a grim reminder of the devastating Horry County wildfire that ripped through the community nearly one year ago.
While homeowners vowed to pick up the burnt pieces of their lives and move on from the disaster, officials in North Myrtle Beach say they've been doing the same by taking action to improve the safety of the seaside community.
North Myrtle Beach spokeswoman Nicole Aiello says the North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety has been working to improve training, equipment and operations since the wildfire sparked on April 23, 2009.
"We learned a lot from the wildfire last April and the Department of Public Safety, including the Fire Rescue Division, is committed to improving our operations in order to serve and protect our residents," said North Myrtle Beach Fire Chief Tom Barstow.
Firefighters employed with the City of North Myrtle Beach have been asked by officials to extend their training with the addition of two wildland firefighting classes hosted by the South Carolina Forestry Commission. The classes are expected to certify more than 53 firefighters in wildland fire tactics.
In addition to increasing training efforts of first responders, the City of North Myrtle Beach has reassessed the town's current firefighting equipment. The North Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue Division has since received nine full sets of wildfire turnout gear from a donation from Wal-Mart and the Catholic Diocese of Charleston.
Officials say community support has aided in the department obtaining additional equipment to more effectively fight brushfires and wildfires.
As safety officials have breathed new life into firefighting, communication between the city and its residents has had a drastic makeover. The City of North Myrtle Beach has introduced a new community information service called Nixle, aiding in the delivery of safety alerts through text message, email and the internet.