Myrtle Beach firefighter trained, experienced in terrorism respo - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Myrtle Beach firefighter trained, experienced in terrorism response

Bret Holland responding to missile strike in Israel in 2014 Bret Holland responding to missile strike in Israel in 2014

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Bret Holland, a Myrtle Beach firefighter and paramedic, already has experience responding to terrorist-related emergencies if one ever strikes locally after spending several weeks in Israel.

"Day and night it was sirens. It was fire. It was an experience. I learned a lot," Holland said. "And I hope that I've been able to bring some of that back home if we do ever have an event here locally and God knows I hope we don't."

Holland is part of the Emergency Volunteers Project. He went over to Israel in 2013 to become a certified Israeli firefighter. Then, he went back in July 2014 when missiles from Hamas were flying over Israel.

"The ground shakes and you hear it and you know it's an explosion," he said.

The purpose of the Emergency Volunteers Project is to bring American firefighters to Israel to help with disaster response because the majority of firefighters there are also military members.

"They're already lower staffed than we are when they're at max staff, so you deplete it 80 percent at a time of war, there's an issue there," he said.

Missiles can start fires even when the Iron Dome deactivates them.

"You still have a missile that falls to the ground and it's hot and it's hot enough to cause fires," Holland said. "With over 1,700 missiles fired into Israel, it was a busy month."

For two weeks, Holland, another American firefighter and an Israeli fire crew would head toward the sound of the missiles or the smoke then put out fires and check on people just like any other fire call back home. However, they would sometimes have to find shelter while responding.

"When you're on scene of this missile, you're constantly looking for the next one," he said. "You'll always have somebody on the engine that was scouring the skies, listening to the radio."

Holland is also one of 30 members on the Pee Dee Regional WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Hazmat Team.

The team has been around for about five years. It now consists of 30 members who have been trained in what's called CBRN: chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives.

Mike Norket, the team's director as well as the assistant fire chief for Myrtle Beach, said the team responds to calls for suspicious items that could potentially be weapons of mass destruction. 

They're trained to monitor the item, take samples and keep it secure until SLED or the FBI arrives to take over.

Those members learned their skills by traveling around the country to do in-depth training.

Team members only respond to a few calls a year and they have yet to need the entire team at one time, Norket said, but they're trained as well as prepared with protective equipment if an emergency does happen.

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