Myrtle Beach Fire increases rescue resources on beach - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Myrtle Beach Fire increases rescue resources on beach

Water rescue team members are ready to respond 24 hours a day in Myrtle Beach. (Source: Amy Lipman) Water rescue team members are ready to respond 24 hours a day in Myrtle Beach. (Source: Amy Lipman)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - After several recent drownings in the ocean around Myrtle Beach, the city's fire department is staffing up the beach with more water rescue team members.

Starting last week, two rescue swimmers with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department are now stationed on the beach from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday and four rescue swimmers are on the beach Friday through Sunday.

They’re off-duty members of the rescue team because on-duty members are ensuring 24-hour coverage at the fire stations.

“We’re asking a lot of the 22 people we have on their days off to sit on the beach and work on the beach,” said Deputy Chief Tom Gwyer. “They are getting paid overtime, but it just shows the level of commitment that these men have to this program.”

They aid lifeguards, beach patrol or perform rescues themselves if they arrive at a scene first, an ability Myrtle Beach Fire didn’t have before it trained the 22-member water rescue team.

“There’s a level of expectation that when we arrive that we’re going to do something,” Gwyer said. “The fact of the matter is our people were not trained to go in the ocean.”

Gwyer said he hopes to get a new class of water rescue swimmers in training at the end of the summer to add another 10 or more team members.

Myrtle Beach Fire also recently became one of three fire departments on the East Coast to receive a certification through the United States Lifesaving Association.

“It’s not us saying that we know what we’re doing. It’s a third-party agency saying, ‘Yes, they met a certain standard and they are qualified to do this stuff,’” Gwyer said.

Now, the team is required to do year-round training to maintain a specific level of physical fitness and the department had to buy updated equipment to meet the USLA specifications.

“It should give people a peace of mind that we have the lifeguards on the beach. We have the beach patrol on the beach. Now, every day you have two to four rescue swimmers from the fire department on the beach and then another four or five in a fire station ready to respond," Gwyer said.

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