HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Fire Rescue is taking a look at all of its equipment used throughout the county. The department is dealing with old fire engines that don't meet some recommended standards. This is a big concern, because those older fire engines are used to keep Horry County's citizens safe, and some are the first ones to head out to them in an emergency.
New Horry County Fire Chief Crosby has been inspecting all of the department's fleet, and found 32 percent of Horry County Fire Rescue's pumpers are more than 20 years old, which is older than the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, standards.
Having an older fleet means it costs more to fix, and parts are hard to find. Plus, they are less reliable on the job and have to sit out for longer periods of time. It's also a concern for the firefighters themselves, as the latest standards call for each person to ride in a fully-enclosed area where they can be strapped in.
The benchmark is any equipment more than 20 years old should be replaced. If they aren't, Leslie Yancey with Horry County Fire Rescue says this can be a big safety issue.
"If you look at you have a brand new car versus a car that's 20 years old, which was has the more likelihood of breaking down?", said Yancey. "In an emergency situation, the last thing you want to see is a piece of apparatus on the side of the road not able to help the people in need."
Once the older engines go down, they stay down for a while. Chief Crosby says there was one that was out of service for 101 days out of the year in 2012.
Even though it affects your safety, this is an issue that can't be solved overnight, county officials say. To replace all the older fire engines, the money has to come from somewhere, and that could be you. But the fire department says it's not directly asking for a tax increase, and all it can do is just state the facts to elected leaders.
"Let them know what we have," said Yancey. "And exactly what the fleet is. County Council can then take that information and find out what is the best way and how can we go ahead and make this happen."
When the economy took a hit, so did the department's budget. That led to the decision to hold on to some of the older equipment, instead of letting go of some of the staff.
Now the recommendation on the table is a 20 year plan to eventually replace all of the old engines. But the department is up against time, as it's due for the next Insurance Services Office(ISO) rating.
The ISO rating determines how well your fire department can serve you when there is an emergency, and the number of years on the equipment is a big factor, which means you might see a tax increase soon, and some taxpayers say it's worth it.
"Yeah if it's old it might break down," said Leona Grobski, who lives in Horry County. "And I think we should have current equipment that can be an edge of safety."
Even if you are against raising taxes, you could still pay. If Horry County Fire Rescue doesn't replace its engines and gets a bad ISO rating, then you may end up paying more in homeowner's insurance.