Local firefighters train to operate heavy equipment

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The next time you see a North Myrtle Beach firefighter on the job they could be working inside of a dump truck instead of a fire truck. Firefighters who volunteered are being trained on several pieces of public works' equipment, in an effort to save time and money.

"They're going to be able to do every aspect of public works," said Robert Turner, the director of Public Works.

North Myrtle Beach came up with the idea to train firefighters on the equipment after this year's winter storms. Downed power lines and fallen tree limbs from the ice storms put public works' crews in a lot of overtime with dangerous conditions, according to Turner.

"After about 14 hours straight, fatigue sets in, accidents start to happen, and you're just wore out," Turner said.

Today is the third of three training sessions, happening this week to get firefighters trained on rubber tire backhoes, track hoes, loaders, dump trucks and more. The firefighters said they're enjoying learning something new.

"We are used to using hydraulics with our ladders so it's similar in some aspects, but it's different and new," says Lt. Kyle Post.

But don't be mistaken. If a fire breaks out, the chief says that comes first. But what's interesting to note is this training is not just saving the public works' department money, but knowing how to operate the equipment will ultimately help citizens when a fire breaks out.

"There are times when we need heavy equipment to either tear down a wall or move some sort of equipment out of the way and there's a bit of a lag time because we have to put in the call and someone has to come from home, pick it up and come to the scene," says Chief Tom Barstow.

Officials from North Myrtle Beach said when the training is complete, the firefighters will be eligible to apply for a CDL license to legally operate the equipment.

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