MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach residents' tax dollars are going toward the growth of the city's fire department.
In a very short amount of time, the first of several buildings has sprouted up on the grounds to improve recruitment and training. Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue has also improved a hurricane plan they intend to stick with should another storm head toward the Grand Strand.
The MBFR was able to add nine more firefighters with a SAFER grant and now a new training facility is on its way to completion at Station 3 on Kings Highway.
Chief Alvin Payne said it will also serve as a community gathering room for the public. The classroom will hold meetings to help out the other overused public meeting room at Station 6.
Payne said Station 6 hosted over 200 community-headed meetings this year, so additional space is needed.
With the extra room and storage, the department is moving an engine from another station to Station 3 for training.
Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue spokesman Lt. Jon Evans said it's the first of many improvements budgeted with the city for the fire department. As the MBFR grows to better serves residents, it's outgrowing the outdated facilities already here.
Station 3 is headquarters for training recruits and the buildings were kept from the old air force base. Evans said the training facility isn't the only addition residents' tax dollars are going toward.
"Some other things (are) down the road but we only have so much space at this point right now anyway," Evans said. "So we're taking it one step at a time and seeing what we can use and what would help us better train for the facility."
Also in the works is a new burn building. Payne said the current one is over 20 years old and was built by firefighters. He added the department is currently in the bidding process for a new one that is similar to the container style already there.
However, the new burn building will be larger and simulate modern, open-home layout styles. This should help to improve firefighters' training.
The training facility will be completed by early 2017, according to MBFR officials. Construction on the new burn building will start immediately thereafter.
Additionally, a meeting was held Thursday to discuss what worked and what did not work during Hurricane Matthew. The fire chief said the department made a new plan of action for the recent storm and it worked. Firefighters were split into one-and-a-half shifts instead of two.
Payne said firefighters working during the hurricane were kept busy answering calls and the change kept the 'off' firefighters more rested to keep helping residents when they came back on shift.
He added there was no shortage of first responders, and when winds became too dangerous they were called in for safety for a few hours.