Firefighters flood Myrtle Beach for annual conference - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Firefighters flood Myrtle Beach for annual conference

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The South Caroline Fire Rescue 2015 Conference kicks off Thursday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. It runs through Saturday and attracts firefighters from all over the Palmetto state for sessions, exercises, renowned speakers, and exhibits.

“The level of care that the firefighters in the state of South Carolina have for their communities is impressive, and I want those communities to know that,” says Will Vaigneur, the president of the South Carolina State Firefighters' Association.

The association puts on the conference every year. Vaigneur says what firefighters learn at this conference gives them the edge to continue providing you the best care on a daily basis.

Vendors line the halls and the convention center floor to give firefighters a look at everything from new air packs to new trucks. Firefighters can ask questions and see if it's something to invest in.

But the conference is more than just bells and whistles. The training sessions and guest speakers will cover everything from forcible entry, to arson investigations, and much more. It's all to trigger new ideas and tactics for all the visiting departments to take them home with them.

"We'd love the public to know that the firefighters are doing this here for training,” says Myrtle Beach Fire Department Lt. Christian Sliker. “They're here for training and their own benefit, so that their residents in their cities are safe. And with that you should know that fire safety is key. And an ounce of prevention is a pound of cure. And them coming here, they're showing their initiative to keep their families and keep their friends and keep their citizens safe.”

According to Vaigneur, this is one of the best state shows in the nation for the fire service. The city of Myrtle Beach has hosted it for the past 20 years now. And leaders are hoping to bring it back again next year.

More than 2,000 firefighters are expected to be attending this year's conference.

"I come here every year to basically get rejuvenated, motivated, to dedicate myself every year to the job that we do,” says Sam Kearns with Lady's Island Fire Department.

Training for firefighters is usually based on what the local department requires as standards to meet. At the conference, firefighters will get to learn about national techniques and ideas to try out.

"I started in a small fire department,” says Cpt. Randy Hunter, Bluffton Township Fire District. “So to come to places like this to see what my future could hold and it really motivated me to take back to my department and try to make changes.”

This weekend there is an emphasis on openly sharing ideas, no matter how big or small the department and building leaders, and no matter the firefighter's rank.

"Even if you are a basic firefighter from the start, there's always a place for leadership. Because you're always going to be climbing higher and higher in the rank. And the more rank you have, the more leadership responsibility you have. And we need good leaders in the fire department,” says Kearns.

Conference leaders also want to make sure firefighters are fully aware of all the programs and resources available to them for their own safety. There are vendors and groups at the conference that cover behavioral health, training, and legislative issues. Leaders especially want to provide more information and resources for everyone attending on firefighters' increased risk for cancer. Vaigneur says education is key in order to reduce that risk as much as possible.

“For those firefighters that have cancer, not only are they to deal with the medical issues but the financial hardships that come with it. And for guys that give their whole life serving others, being left out in the cold in the end is wrong,” says Vaigneur.

In May, WMBF News reporter Katrina Helmer did a special report on the local push to get legislation moving in Columbia for our firefighters. Click hereto see that story and hear from a local firefighter about his battle with cancer.

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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