HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Questions have been raised about the retention rates at Horry County Fire Rescue following a recent county council meeting.
At the July 9 Horry County Council meeting, councilman Danny Hardee called Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Tanner and Deputy Chief Jim Walker to the podium to address concerns he had regarding the fire department.
“I’m visiting fire stations, I’m going to continue visiting fire stations and I’m going to talk to the people and all and there’s an issue here that council needs your help with,” Hardee said. “We have terminated or fired or they’ve quit or whatever the case may be, who knows, in probably about 19 months close to 600 people. And I understand that some join the fire department and don’t want to be there or make a mistake and they leave.”
According to numbers released to WMBF News on Wednesday, from October 1, 2015, to July 13, 2019, 202 firefighters have left the department for one reason or another.
The department said that 158 firefighters resigned, 20 retired, 14 were terminated, nine left for medical reasons and one firefighter died.
During the council meeting, Hardee went on to question the cost to train a firefighter.
“The figures I’ve come up with, and y’all can correct me if I’m wrong, it’s somewhere around $50,000 to $60,000 to train a fireman to where he can go on his own. I’m talking about his salary, his uniform, getting him up where he can go, some less some more, I’m sure.”
HCFR officials said this actually is wrong and it takes around $25,000 to train a firefighter.
Since September of 2014, a total of 248 firefighters have been sent to the training academy and passed. With each costing $25,000 to train, the county and its taxpayers have spent $6.2 million training these firefighters.
Hardee said he requested the presence of HCFR firefighters at the July meeting, but they said they wouldn’t be able to make an appearance.
“I asked a bunch of firemen to come tonight, they said, ‘I can’t,’ and I don’t understand that," Hardee said. “We sent out a memo saying that that you can come, you can address this council anytime you want to but they said ‘You don’t understand. They won’t come in and fire me, but they’ll make my life pure misery.' This wasn’t at just one firehouse, I’ve been in a bunch of them."
Tanner responded to Hardee saying:
“You and I’ve talked about this quite a bit and I’ve told you before, there’s an open door policy at M.L. Brown building at anytime. I’m visiting fire stations and I have people coming into my office to visit with me as well. And no one in our administration is out to get anybody. What happened in the past is in the past; we’re going to move forward.”
WMBF News requested a sit down interview with Tanner, he was not available at the time but did release the following statement:
Thank you for reaching out.
I’m sure you can appreciate, as the Fire Chief, my first priority is to our staff. I’m currently working with Interim Assistant County Administrator for Public Safety, Randy Webster, and Administrator Steve Gosnell, to review any and all concerns recently brought forward.
At this time, it would be inappropriate for me to entertain this request, however, I look forward to the opportunity to address all of your questions once we finish reviewing any concerns from our staff.
In the meantime, I hope you will help emphasize that all of the leadership at Horry County Fire Rescue and Horry County Government remains dedicated to our employees, and encourages anyone with concerns to be in touch with us directly.
Sincerely, Joseph K. Tanner Fire Chief HCFR
At this time, there are 18 vacancies at Horry County Fire Rescue.