CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Fire Rescue officials said the support from South Carolina fire departments following the death of Conway firefighter Chris Ray has been incredible.
It is this help from various departments outside Horry County that allowed many firefighters in the county to pay their final respects to their fallen brother.
Ray's death prompted the state to activate its South Carolina Firefighter Mobilization Network. The program allows firefighters from all corners of S.C. to come in and assist other departments that may need assistance.
Those assisting the Conway Fire Departments said firefighters and administrative officials didn't have to worry about about answering calls. This allowed Ray's colleagues to focus on laying their fellow brother to rest.
The Windy Hill Fire Department from Florence County came down to help. For Nathan Settlemyre, there were no second thoughts.
"I got to cancel plans, and let's go," he said.
Settlemyre said he knew he had to show his support when he heard one of his fellow firefighters was killed in the line of duty.
"We know if it was us, the whole state would do the same for us. So, we were quick to volunteer to come here and hold down the station for them while they're paying their respects," explained Settlemyre.
Firefighters and administrative officials from nine different South Carolina Fire Departments were on hand to help Conway Fire Rescue, Myrtle Beach Fire and other surrounding Horry County departments stepped in to answer emergency calls while they Ray's firefighting brothers and sisters paid their final respects.
All of the public servants volunteered their time, with many saying they worked on a day that would normally be scheduled as an off day.
"Their focus is mourning the loss of a firemen and paying their respects and laying him to rest," said Bryan Bennett, assistant fire chief for Howe Springs in Florence County. "This takes a lot off the shoulders of the firemen and administration. Ultimately, we are all public servants and have to provide a service regardless of what happens." .
Bennett added that being a firefighter is about being part of a brotherhood. When one is lost, they all grieve.
"It is one big family. It doesn't matter what color truck you drive (or) what department you are from. It's all a brotherhood," said Bennett. "We all do the same thing. We all serve the public. It's a dangerous job and you have to be able to rely on each other to get through the tough times."
As part of the South Carolina Firefighter Mobilization Network, a liaison from the assisting department or the county department will help transition those volunteer firefighters on how to handle emergencies and service calls.
"We'll get the radio procedures, the tone-outs and all of the run procedures that go through a normal call and we will respond out from there," said Timmy Yandle, captain with the Columbia Fire Department.
Yandle said Ray's death affects the entire fire department community and it is a huge honor to be there for Conway Fire after they were there for his department in the past.
"Not too long ago we had one, Tyrone Weston, (who) was a line of duty death also, and we were covered by our surrounding counties," he said. "It's a great help and a great brotherhood to know that we've got that in place," stated Yandle.
Most of the assisting departments arrived Thursday morning and will cover a 24-hour shift until 8 a.m. Friday.