MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach City council is voting on a grant Tuesday to allow for nine more firefighters. Fire officials say those nine additional people are badly needed. Also needed is more patrol on the beach during the warm months.
As Myrtle Beach grows, the departments protecting the city need to grow too. The Myrtle Beach police department added 14 officers to their department last week, and Tuesday, the fire department could get the green light to hire nine more firefighters with the approval of a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response. The department is nicknamed SAFER and the grant is worth more than $1 million.
Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue spokesman Lt. Jonathan Evans said more firefighters means quicker response times for you, and more people on specialized squads like the HazMat Team and beach patrol to keep you safe.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day this year, Evans said fire rescue answered more than 5,000 calls. As of yesterday, they've hit more than 11,000 calls.
"Every year it gets busier and busier. Last year, we did a little over 13,000 calls, and it goes up every year," Evans said.
With numbers like that increasing each year in Myrtle Beach, Lt. Evans said there's no choice but to add more firefighters and equipment.
"We're happy to have the extra people because we're planning new stations, and new equipment…things like that. So it's nice to have. Especially during the summer time when we're busy stocking the extra ambulance and just having to throw in the pieces," he said.
The grant will pay for nine firefighters, but the department is also adding six more to fill current vacancies. The class of 15 will begin training, hopefully at the beginning of next year.
The grant will last for two years. After that, the expense falls upon the city.
In addition to a growing department, MBFD is also increasing their beach patrol unit from 20 to 35 members. The 15 new members are going through training now.
"They're getting Red Cross and USLA-certified...and then they should be done probably pretty soon because they're doing their ocean training now…so before it gets too cold they should probably be done by the end of the month or early next month," Lt. Evans said.
He explained the increase is due to the drastic increase in drownings and beach rescue from the summer. MBFD has only had its beach squad for a little over a year, but the need for more help on the beach was evident this year.
"Before, the police department pretty much handled it and the lifeguards...and I think they found a need for extra people on the beach. Because lifeguards are pretty stationary and there's only two or three beach patrol from the police department, so it really did help having that extra manning on the beach. I think we actually had 14 drowning calls that we ran on, or swimmer in distress calls," Lt. Evans said.
Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue is also looking at adding two UTVs and maybe some jet skis. This year, fire rescue borrowed beach golf carts from MBPD for extra beach transport.